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Updated: Feb 27, 2022

July 20, 2021 New Orleans, La.

A project of the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) now has an important historical aspect to it. Here's the story:

The Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815 as the last event in the War of 1812 between the British and the new American nation. The battle was fought between a professional British army and a rag-tag, thrown together, US military force that resulted in a victory for the young United States over what was then a world power.

The Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815. Unbeknownst to the participates of the battle, a treaty had been signed eighteen days before by the United States and Britain,

ending the war of 1812.

In 1855 there were plans for a monument to be built near the location of the earthworks that the Americans, lead by Andrew Jackson, stood behind to successfully repulse the British. It was not completed until the land was transferred to the federal government in 1907 because funding was in short supply.

In 1864 the Union Army established a cemetery to bury its Civil War dead near the site of this famous battleground. Over the years soldiers from nearly all of America’s wars have been buried in this hallowed ground called the Chalmette National Cemetery.

On August 10, 1939, Congress established Chalmette Battlefield as a National Historical Park. The two historic parcels of property have been separated from one another since the early 1800’s by a tract of land that was purchased by a “free man of color” by the name of Pierre Fazende. In 1856 he turned the land over to his son who divided the property into 33 lots and sold them to other free people of color. After the civil war some of the lots were sold to freed slaves, which would have given them ownership of property for the first time.

A recent painting of what the village of Fazendeville would have looked like in its prime.

A one-room school house, Baptist church, dance hall, grocery store and two barrooms appeared over the years as the single street slowly developed into a village. It became known as Fazendeville. It was home to thirty families living in thirty homes.

Life in Fazendeville remained tranquil and undisturbed for more than 100 years. But in 1962 a chain of events began, beyond the control of the families, that would forever change their lives. In that year area civic boosters began efforts to unite the Chalmette Battlefield with the Chalmette National Cemetery by taking possession of the field that laid between the two, which was the land that British soldiers marched across in their attack on the American lines. There was only one problem; the homes and buildings of Fazendeville sat on that land.

The idea was to create single large tract of land for the newly named Chalmette National Historic Park. The timing was to coincide with the sesquicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans on its 150th anniversary in 1965.

The village of Fazendeville was located right in the middle of the historic Chalmette battlefield.

The residents of Fazendeville were soon overwhelmed by the drive to combine these federal properties. In the “Can Do” age of the 1950’s and 1960’s many huge projects across the country moved forward using the accepted wisdom that even if whole communities needed to be displaced that wasn't enough of a reason to stop progress, so the legal process to expropriate their property began.


At the time, a typical new home in the area appraised for $16,500. The residents of Fazendeville were paid $6,000 for their old homes, making it financially impossible for many of them to find homes to replace the ones they had lost.

Some of the buildings in Fazendeville are shown in this photo. It was taken as planning was underway to expropriate the properties.

In early 1965 the last building in Fazendeville was bulldozed down and the debris hauled off. Within a year the ground was scraped clear so that if you looked very carefully only a slight indention could be seen of what was the old roadbed.

The photo shows the 1965 sesquicentennial event for the battlefield as it was underway.

Fast-forward to 2020.

Until the 1930’s the battlefield was bordered by a cypress swamp on the north with the river batture (wetland) along the Mississippi River on its south side. The site is in St. Bernard parish where Louisiana irises grew in vast numbers within its swamps and marshes throughout history. Because of this, the US Park Service approved a Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative proposed planting of native Louisiana irises in a bog that is located along the south side of the battlefield. It was only the second permit issued at the battlefield in the last ten years because of the rigorous criteria that is used to consider a proposed project on US National Park Service property. It was approved in part because it was thought by the park staff that there were no irises growing on the property.

This is what was found when the LICI volunteer walked out into the field for the first time in February, 2021.

On February 10, 2021, almost a year after the iris planting project was proposed, four LICI volunteers planted the first batch of test irises. When they were finished, one of them noticed a clump of what looked like Louisiana irises growing out in the field that was across the paved road from where they had worked. A few days later LICI received permission to walk the field and in the process it was discovered that there were multiple patches of Louisiana irises that included anywhere from one hundred to multiple hundreds of irises in each. It was just assumed these were wild, light blue I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris that’s native to the area that somehow had been overlooked by the park staff because the largest patches were a long way out from the road. Since the field is never cut in March or April there would be no reason for any of the park staff to be out in the field during the iris bloom.

LICI decided that we would gather up a group to walk the field during the iris bloom consisting of LICI’s supporters and some of the park staff that had become interested in the mystery of Louisiana irises growing in the middle of the battlefield, especially since it looked like the irises had been there for many years, if not decades.

Photo: Friends of LICI and staff of the US Park Service find the first patch of blooming Louisiana irises on the trip out into the field on March 29th. They estimated that there were a total of a few thousand Louisiana irises if all of the iris patches were combined.

On March 29th the group met in a small parking area on the paved road and started walking into the field. They quickly discovered that the irises were not the light blue I. giganticaerulea irises, but were lavender-purple, making them most likely the I. vinicolor iris. It’s what results from the first cross between the I. giganticaerulea and the I. fulva Louisiana irises. Every iris spread out over a long and narrow section of the field was the same-colored iris, with some slight variations in color found in just a few clumps.

I. vinicolor irises in one of the irises patches on the Chalmette Battlefield.

(Photo by Paul Christiansen)

Then the group came across a few clumps of plants in bloom that made them all stop in their tracks. It was a non-native plant, originally from Africa, called the crinum lily. Seeds of the crinum lily are known to have been brought to the Americas by slaves. It’s been grown in the home gardens of some African Americans since then, passed down from one generation to another, as a reminder of their heritage.

Some of the crinum lilies are seen blooming on the edge of one of the patches of irises.

(Photo by Paul Christiansen)

They then located the faint outline of the old Fazendeville roadbed. By following the roadbed through the field they figured out that all of the irises and crinum lilies were growing on only one side of the road, the side where the houses once stood. The clumps of irises also ended about where the rear line of the lots would have been.

Everyone later said they just stood there thinking what turned out being the same thought; that they had likely found the remnants and offspring of two species of plants that once grew in the gardens of homes in Fazendeville. Somehow, they have survived since the 1960's when the homes were moved or torn down and are now growing and spreading in the field right there in the middle of the Chalmette Battlefield as a silent reminder of the village and the people that once lived there.

Photo: One of only three small clumps of irises that were a little off colored. They appeared to have more of the red I. fulva color.

It makes sense that the I. vinicolor would have been the iris of choice for people in Fazendeville to grow. If there are tens of thousands light blue colored I. giganticaerulea irises blooming along the roads in Chalmette and the red I. fulva along the Mississippi River batture nearby, you would have collected the more harder to find wine colored I. vinicolor iris to plant into your garden back in the first half of the 20th century. Fazendeville was located in a section of Chalmette where the distance separating the cypress swamps to the north holding the I. giganticaerulea iris and the Mississippi River batture holding I. fulva is the narrowest. There were likely at least a few I. vinicolor irises growing in the area as a result of the two cross-pollenating.

LICI is excited that what started off as a simple iris restoration project now has an important historical aspect to it. Plans are underway by LICI volunteers and the park staff to move some of the irises and crinum lilies to a location near the parking area and to install a written display to create a living memorial to the residents of Fazendeville.

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Updated: Aug 18, 2021

July 17, 2021 New Orleans, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) held a volunteer event at the US Fish & Wildlife Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans to open Louisiana iris seed pods. The see pods were collected earlier in the week by a GulfCorps member with Limitless Vistas of New Orleans from the irises near the refuge's Ridge Trail boardwalk.

Photo: The Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge is located within the city limits of New Orleans. Its one of the few US Fish & Wildlife refuges located within a urban area, although the area of New Orleans East where the refuge is located is sparsely populated.

The area near the viewing platform of the Ridge Trail boardwalk is where LICI has planted thousands of irises as part of a multi-year project to reintroduce the I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris back into the refuge. Saltwater flooding from hurricane Katrina decimated the native iris population in the refuge.

Photo: Volunteers are shown working planting irises near the Ridge Trail boardwalk viewing platform in the fall of 2020.

Photo: Louisiana irises blooming near the viewing platform in the spring of 2021. Each of the flowers created a seed pod, which holds between 25 and 60 individual seeds.

Over the last few months LICI has had a permit to eradicate Chinese Tallow trees in the area of the boardwalk viewing platform. This evasive tree species grows faster than the native trees. The tallow trees are now shading out native tree seedlings that were planted to reforest this area of the refuge after Hurricane Katrina's high winds cleared out swaths of mature forest. The tallow tree eradication effort has been successful in opening up lengths of shoreline in the swamp to sunlight as the tallow trees have died.

The purpose of the volunteer event was to remove the seeds from the iris seed pods. The seeds will be broadcast out at a future date into the muck along the new shoreline where there is now plenty of sunlight and not many competing plants. This is being done to help nature speed up the natural process of expanding the existing irises into these new areas.

Photo: Some of the volunteers working opening seed pods at the Bayou Sauvage refuge on July 17, 2021.

Volunteers from LICI, the Louisiana Master Naturalist of Greater New Orleans and Common Ground Relief worked under a pavilion at the entrance to the boardwalk opening the seed pods on Saturday, July 17th. An estimated 6,000 iris seeds were collected by the group.

Photo: Some of the volunteers are shown with the container full of iris seeds at the end of the morning.

More information on the LICI reintroducing the Louisiana iris project at the Bayou Sauvage refuge can be found here:

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Updated: Jul 24, 2021

July 12, 2021

Volunteers from the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) held an iris rescue event on Saturday, July 10, 2021 along Hwy 90 near the town of Des Allemands, La. Some of the irises were planted at the Lockport, La. Elevated Boardwalk later in the morning and the rest were taken to the LICI iris holding area to be planted into containers. The irises will be planted at the boardwalk later this year after they have strengthened up by growing in the containers.

Photo: LICI volunteers working in the Hwy 90 wet area digging up the I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris. The irises are native to the area and were growing in the ditch naturally. They were remnants of what were likely once thousands of irises growing along Hwy 90 before the state began spraying herbicides thirty years ago to keep the ditches clear of weeds.

The landowner of the property where the volunteers worked has bush-hogged the ditch/wet area each year in front of his property during the dry season. Because of his doing this, it has never been sprayed with a herbicide by the state highway department. It is the only stretch of highway not sprayed. This allowed the spot to become a mini-wetland bog full of native swamp plants, including the Louisiana iris.

Photo: Over seven hundred irises were dug up from this one spot where another rescue event was held in June.

The landowner now has the property for sale and has stopped maintaining the wet area. He believes its only a question of time before the state will begin spraying it. He has encouraged us to get the irises out and relocated to a safer location.

Photo: The volunteers on the July 10th iris rescue event, from left to right: Shannon Eaton, Jessica and Mike Glaspell, Gary Salathe, Jacqueline Richard, Jamie Zeringue and Richard Bosworth.

The volunteers took out an estimated seven hundred irises from the same spot where two other rescue events have been already held. They thought they would only be digging up a few straggler irises. Instead, they spent the entire time digging irises that were either missed or were still there because time had run out in the previous events.

LICI will be holding a number of iris rescues over the next few weeks to get all of their containers filled at the LICI iris holding area in New Orleans. Gary Salathe, volunteer and board of directors member for LICI said, "We have some new locations that have asked us to plant irises this fall and winter, so we will need as many irises as we have space for."

Anyone interested in volunteering on any LICI projects can contact the group at

All of the above photos were taken and shared with us by Henry Cancienne.

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