Jungle Gardens is a 170-acre garden with semitropical foliage, abundant wildlife and a centuries-old Buddha statue. The garden’s rolling landscape stretches along Bayou Petite Anse on the northwest side of the Island.
E. A. McIlhenny, or “Mr. Ned” as he was affectionately known, founded a bird colony in the 1890s — later called Bird City — after plume hunters slaughtered egrets by the thousands for feathers to make fashionable ladies’ hats. Mr. Ned gathered up eight young egrets, raised them in captivity on the Island, and released them in the fall to migrate across the Gulf of Mexico. The following spring, the birds returned to the Island with others of their species — a migration that continues to this day, as thousands of snowy white egrets and other water birds return to Bird City. This vast, protected rookery owes its existence to Mr. Ned.
Mr. Ned also prized rare plants, and he enhanced the Island’s natural landscape with numerous varieties of azaleas, Japanese camellias, Egyptian papyrus and other botanical treasures. When oil was discovered on the Island in 1942, he made sure that production crews bypassed live oak trees, buried pipelines (or painted them green), and took additional steps to preserve the Island’s pristine beauty and ensure its continuing role as a wildlife refuge.
Today, his famed 170-acre Jungle Gardens and Bird City host visitors from all over the world. In season, visitors to Avery Island can expect to see a variety of azaleas, camellias and bamboo, in addition to alligators, deer and raccoons that live in the hills and marshes around the gardens. Visitors can stroll along a path covered by gnarled oaks laced with Spanish moss and stand at the shrine that houses a centuries-old Buddha — a gift to Mr. Ned in 1936. And then there are the thousands of snowy egrets that nest in Bird City each spring.