Coppice footpaths, mangrove boardwalks, and wetland trails – The Preserve’s winding paths are full of scenic natural beauty to admire! Along with these natural habitat trails, there are also a number of attractions to experience at The Levy Preserve. Here are some of the main trails and features you can explore:
Upon arriving at the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, the first site you’ll approach is The Welcome Centre. Built with native limestone, inside lies the Gift Shop, and Preserve Administrative Offices. At The Gift Shop, you can shop for merchandise, souvenirs, and local products. You can also view curated collections of insects that were collected at The Levy Preserve. Directly in front of the Welcome Center, is a beautiful Coconut Grove. Here you can sit, relax, and admire a waterfall view while watching hummingbirds and bananaquits enjoy the nearby nectar feeders.
This iconic boardwalk takes you through a mangrove forest, where you can observe all four mangrove species found in The Bahamas. Amongst the plants’ impressive root structures, you can find wetland birds and other animals that depend on these ecosystems. Mainly salt water, it lies below sea level. The Bahamas does not have any natural rivers or waterfalls; but to aid in the creation of a beautiful wetland, a man-made waterfall was developed using natural Bahamian limestone with recirculated groundwater.
This trail showcases plants used in medicine by Bahamians. The practice, termed “bush medicine,” involves the brewing of the roots, bark, and leaves of particular plants and trees to make teas. Passed down through generations, this tea-making tradition was first brought to The Bahamas by African slaves in the 1700s. Though this tradition is in decline, this important aspect of Bahamian culture still exists on many islands. The Levy Preserve is dedicated to preserving this traditional and cultural knowledge. The display beds on the medicinal trail are organized by ailment and the respective plants used to treat it.
Endemic plants are plant species that are native to a specific geographic region and are found nowhere else in the world. In the Endemic display beds, the Preserve showcases different groups of plants that can are only found in The Bahamas. In many cases, some of these plants are single-island endemics, and can only be found on one island in the archipelago. These beds contain plants that have been collected by Dr Ethan Fried during his collections in the wild. Many of these species are considered threatened or endangered.
Look, but don’t touch! Welcome to our Poisonous Plants Section. This area features a variety of poisonous plant species, each with its own unique properties and history. Though toxic to us, many of these plants play a key role in the environment, as you’ll see from the animals that hang around these plants in this area. Book a guided tour to discover the intriguing stories behind these dangerous plants, and learn about their physical and chemical characteristics that make them so harmful.
Constructed using native limestone, the Educational Pavilion is elevated to reveal a spectacular view and receives a cool island breeze. This space is primarily used for school field trips and has hosted annual concerts, lecture series, and seasonal events for the local community, and international workshops! The Educational Pavillion is the perfect place to read a book, look at a field guide or just take a break. Interested in booking this space for your next event? Contact us for rates and more information!
The cedar lath house is where we grow new plants to replenish our nursery stocks for sale, school programs, reforestation projects, and to conduct seed germination research. School children and visitors can learn propagation techniques and find stocks of native plants for their own gardens. Our lath house is designed to provide the ideal growing environment for plants that require protection from direct sunlight, wind, or other environmental factors.
An epiphyte is a plant that grows on top of another plant or object instead of placing roots in the ground. Orchids and bromeliads are some of the best-known examples of these plants, and our epiphyte trail abounds with them. On this path, you will encounter around eight species of orchids and four species of bromeliads. The U-shaped trail is approximately 800 feet in length and travels around the slope of a ridge, making for a modest 15 to 20-minute walk.
Economic botany is a branch of botany that focuses on the relationship between plants and people, particularly in terms of their practical uses. On the Economic Botany trail, you’ll discover the plants and fascinating ways in which plants have been used for practical purposes throughout Bahamian history. Along the trail, interpretive signage provides insight and information about the different plant species and their economic importance, and guided tours could be offered to provide more in-depth insights into some of these plants.
A Lucayan hut, built by hand from Bahamian pine, stands at the entrance to the edible history garden. Here, plants that sustained the Lucayans – the original inhabitants of The Bahamas – are brought together for the first time in hundreds of years. Other fruits and vegetables introduced throughout Bahamian history are also on display including those introduced by early Spanish; English and African Settlers. You’ll notice the distinctive red dirt found in the beds of this area which naturally made its way to The Bahamas from the African Sahara Desert.
The space where the freshwater wetland flows was formerly an old cistern on the Preserve’s property. World-famous landscape architect Raymond Jungles is responsible for designing and converting it into the stunning freshwater wetland area that it is today. It features bird perches, waterfalls, water lilies, pond apples, sabal palms, and other freshwater plant species, as well as native Bahamian freshwater turtles who enjoy coming to the water’s edge to be fed.
This mini coppice trail is perfect for the youngest of explorers, those who may be a little less physically capable, or those just wanting to take a lighter path. It’s only a five-minute walk but offers a glimpse into what the forests that previously dominated The Bahamas were like before people settled on these islands. Of note along the trail is a sizable termite mound; as well as the magnificent Christmas Orchid, Encyclia altissima, which blooms in the winter months and diffuses a wonderful fragrance throughout the forest.
For the more adventurous explorers, Ethan’s Tower loop will take you on a steep climb through the coppice forest to the highest point in the Preserve: Ethan’s Tower. At 75 feet above sea level, Ethan’s Tower provides a spectacular 360-degree view of the surrounding area from above the forest canopy. This feature was named after Dr Ethan Freid, the Preserve’s botanist who conceptualized, designed, and oversaw the construction of the tower. The entire loop is about half a mile long or a 45-minute walk.
Installed in 2013, the technologically advanced weather station records meteorological data at the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve. This includes wind speed and direction, temperature, relative humidity, radiant light, rainfall, and barometric pressure. The long-term goal of this weather station is to be able to provide real-time and historical weather data on the Preserve’s website and to be able to use the data to contribute to local research.