Born on Avery Island in 1872, Edward Avery ("Ned") McIlhenny was an arctic explorer, naturalist, and conservationist. He studied the plants and animals on Avery Island and in the surrounding salt marshes, and in 1895 he founded Bird City, a private bird sanctuary for the once-endangered snowy egret.

The son of Tabasco sauce inventor E. McIlhenny, Ned assumed the presidency of McIlhenny Company in 1898 and ran the world-famous pepper sauce operation until his death fifty-one years later.

In the 1920s, however, Ned found time to convert his private Avery Island estate into Jungle Gardens, decorating it with exotic botanical specimens from around the world. He gradually expanded the gardens until it reached its present size -- more than 170 acres. For example, Ned converted a dreary gully into the beautiful, shaded Sunken Garden, and an open sand mining pit into the Palm Garden.

He planted camellias and azaleas, which thrived in south Louisiana's mild winters and semitropical summers. Through the years thousands of these plants were arranged under the magnificent stands of live oaks - in fact, Ned planted over four hundred varieties of camellias, over a hundred varieties of azaleas, over fifty varieties of juniper, and, amazingly, over a thousand varieties of iris!

In 1935 he opened Jungle Gardens to the public, and since then it has remained a favorite south Louisiana tourist destination.

An Excerpt from the book Bird City by E. A. McIlhenny (1935)

Where Bird City is now was a wet area known as the Willow Pond. The spot was covered with buttonwood trees, willows and marsh grasses and a few green herons nested there each spring. I built a small dam around a spring in the middle of the wet spot over which I built a cage fifty feet square covered with poultry netting.

It was spring and I went into the swamps in search of nests of the Snowy
Herons to get some young so that I could try to save these beautiful birds
from being exterminated by the hunters who killed them for their feathers with
which to decorate ladies’ hats. After several days’ search I found two nests,
each containing four young. The eight birds were not yet old enough to fly
and, storing them in the pockets of my hunting coat, I brought them to the
cage I had built.