Our family, which is based in New York, has been coming to Eleuthera for over thirty years, and we have visited there in all seasons. Although it's tropical, there is a subtle seasonal variation in the flora which we have come to appreciate. Depending on the season of our visit, we might look forward to the blooms and fragrances of the poinciana, lignum vitae, yellow elder, the native plums, and the many bushes and flowering plants. If you're there at the right time, you might find sapodilla fruit, sea grapes, various plums, mango, tamarind, etc, in your backyard or at the local vendor. It has taken us more than a quarter of a century to become familiar with the rich flora of Eleuthera.
When the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve opened, we were thrilled that we could find everything we had seen and learned about the trees and plants of Eleuthera--and it was all now in one location. The Preserve is conveniently located in the middle of Eleuthera, on 25 acres on a wide part of an island that is renown for its spectacular beaches. But there is so much more to this beautiful island, and the Preserve points these attributes out exceptionally well. Working in concert with the Bahamas National Trust, the Preserve was designed as a research center for traditional bush medicine, as a place to re-introduce and propagate indigenous plants and trees, and an educational center especially for the local children, and it also strives to promote environmental awareness, biodiversity and sustainability. This noble vision was inspired by the work of Leon Levy, and the Preserve was dedicated to his memory by his wife, Shelby White, and is truly a work of love.
There is a history and a lore to the many types of wood in The Bahamas. For example, the Bahamian national tree is the lignum vitae; it is among the densest of woods and was used to shape ship anchors, ball bearings, mallets and such.
In the mid-seventeenth century, the settlers of Eleuthera sent a shipment of brasiletto in appreciation for much needed supplies. Harvard sold the wood and eventually sent a plaque of thanks which hangs in the library in Governor's Harbour.
Poisonwood is poisonous (and there are several of these trees planted so you can identify them in the wild), and a remedy is a similar looking tree called the gumelemi.
This and many other stories can be learned by walking through, up and around the various gardens and paths, by perusing the reading materials or speaking with the helpful guides.
My husband and I, being physicians, were very interested in the medicinal uses of plants and spent quite a bit of time at the bush medicine plantings.
We walked all the trails in the three hours we spent at the Preserve, including the one up to Ethan's tower for a lovely 360 degree view. It is not a difficult hike, and well worth the extra time. Bring a camera, and comfortable shoes are a good idea.
The Preserve is an exquisite gift to the people of Eleuthera, and one which any visitor to this beautiful island should make a point in visiting. For us, it is a gem which we look forward to sharing with our children and grandchildren.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.