The Laurels – A Historical Perspective

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting—a wayside sacrament. Welcome it and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.”

Leading horticulturalists have said that the most beautiful native wild flowering shrub in America is the Rhododendron and that the Mountain Laurel (Kalmia) of the same family ranks second in beauty.

[Photo here: Mountain Laurel (Kalmia) -- -- The Laurels]

To find luxuriant colonies of wild mountain laurel in the Deep South is an exception and not the rule. For example, there is but one such colony or group in all of Louisiana and that is located in Washington Parish near Bogalusa, along the water shed and bluffs of Pushepatapa Creek and its tributaries. Pushepatapa is the Choctaw Indian name meaning “many waters,” hence: including the stream and all its several tributaries.

Thus, briefly, we have the geography of one of nature’s loveliest gardens. Along the clear, winding stream the precipitous bluffs are literally hidden beneath masses of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia). During the spring season the sheet of delicate pink bloom eclipses even the dainty native azelea, dogwood, magnolia and wild hydrangea. The whole presents a picture well worth the lingering gaze of every beauty lover. An unusual natural garden, with convenient trails winding through thick stands of mountain laurel and about one hundred species of other flowering shrubs and trees for entertainment and enjoyment, have been laid out on about fifty acres of land along the high picturesque bluffs of a crystal clear creek and opened to the public.

In Bogalusa, start at the depot of the B., M. & N. Railroad, follow the signboard,
“The Laurels,” north and after ten minutes by automobile you will arrive.

Each recurring Springtime many visitors are seen at The Laurels.

Dr. J. H. Slaughter, Commissioner of Streets and Parks of the City of Bogalusa, Louisiana,
says: “I feel that the city and country are benefited by the development of The
Laurels near by. Each spring when I take guests to see the beautiful place, they
are amazed to see North Carolina at its best right here in Louisiana. I wish to
express my appreciation of this lovely spot.”

Mrs. Vertrees Young, President of The Garden Club of the City of Bogalusa, “The
Laurels—Nature’s Jewel Box.”"The paragon of the Mountain Laurels in the steep pine woods near Bogalusa, Louisiana, is an unsolved mystery. Did the wild pigeons in their flight across the continent roost along the deep ravine at The Laurels and drop the seeds along the banks? Did marching soldiers, finding this beautiful natural garden, encamp there and shed seeds—which were gathered as they tramped through the mountains—from their clothing? Perhaps the Indians, whose wigwams were pitched among these woods, carried the seeds as they roamed in search of game or new camping grounds. This is the mystery of The Laurels.

“Today, along the deep ravine, made by the winding stream of clear cold water, the
mountain laurels grow in exuberant profusion. Huge tree-like bushes line the steep
banks. Here, too, in nature’s lovely garden, ancient magnolia trees cast their shade
on the iris, flowering vines and many other native Louisiana wild flowers.

“All of this has been unspoiled by artificial arrangements and plantings.
The Laurels presents a pageant of color and design of unspeakable beauty.”

Miss Caroline Dorman, author of the book, “The Wild Flowers of Louisiana,”
says: “The memory of my first view of The Laurels is one of the things I shall
keep always. There is so much beauty in Louisiana—but it is almost incredible that
even your wild ravine, with its limpid waters, could have wooed the dainty mountain
laurel (Kalmia latifolia) down from its heights and persuaded it to grow as
luxuriantly as in the Great Smokies. Then there are the masses of pieris, wild
hydrangea, star anise, cyrilla, native azalea—oh, so many to name—and all spiced
with the fragrance of wild sweet olive. You have the rare magnolia
pyramidata and stewartia; I can’t recall them all. But I do remember that in walking
about a hundred yards along your bluff I counted seventy-five species of trees and
shrubs. Best of all, you have had the excellent judgment to preserve this loveliness
in its natural state. In my estimation, there is not a spot in the state which can
equal yours for variety of native flora and for sheer exquisite beauty.”

For further information, address:

Care Mrs. J. K. Johnson
Bogalusa, La.


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