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Updated: Mar 25, 2021

February 11, 2021 Chalmette, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) completed a Louisiana iris planting at the Chalmette Battlefield on Wednesday, February 10, 2021. Thirty clumps of the I. giganticaerulea species of Louisiana iris were planted as a test batch to see how the irises do this spring and summer. LICI's plan, if the irises do well, is to organize a significant planting in the fall by inviting the public to participate.

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 field that the battle was actually fought on is now a US Park Service site named the Chalmette Battlefield, which is located just downriver from New Orleans.

Photo above: The breastworks that the American troops stood behind to fire on the British troops, who were advancing in formation across an open field, have been reconstructed in the exact location where they were in 1815.

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 the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative planting these native Louisiana irises in a bog that is located along the south side of the battlefield.

Photo on right: The area selected to plant the irises is a freshwater bog located between the loop road and the Mississippi River levee. As shown on the map, this area is near Colonel Rennie's attack, which was a feign meant to confuse the Americans on where the actual main attack would take place further north in the field. Colonel Rennie was killed during the attack.

Gary Salathe, LICI volunteer and board of directors member, summed up the thinking of all involved in the project, "We don't know if the bog existed when the battle was fought in 1815, but its a nice thought that in this small spot, in a field where so much violence and death took place over 200 years ago, beautiful wild Louisiana irises will soon be blooming each spring."

Photo on left: The monument to British generals Pakenham and Gibbs is shown at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England. Both were killed during the Battle of New Orleans.

US National Park Service personnel, lead by staff ecologist Julie Whitbeck, helped LICI apply for the permit to plant the irises. 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. Whitbeck personally guided LICI's permit application through the lengthy and very detailed approval process.

Blaise Pezold, of The Meraux Foundation, introduced LICI to the park personnel and suggested their doing the project.

Photo above: Three of four LICI volunteers planting clumps of irises at the Chamlette Battlefield on February 10th.

Photo on left: Many of the irises were planted along the edge of an area that holds water year-round, except during the driest periods when the soil is still moist.

Salathe reports that the wet area of the battlefield where the irises were planted is very similar to the property where the irises were rescued from, including being bush-hogged twice each year during the spring and autumn dry periods. "The end result is that this location could potentially be used as a place to relocate thousands of irises from that property. It would put them in a new permanently protected home where the irises will be available for the public to enjoy while they bloom", he said.

A US National Park Service Facebook video about the Battle of New Orleans can be found here:

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Updated: May 9, 2022

January 28, 2021 Mandeville, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) organized a Louisiana iris planting at Fontainebleau State Park on Wednesday, January 27, 2021 as part of a long-term project at the park. Volunteers of the St. Tammany Master Gardeners Association, Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater New Orleans, Native Plant Initiative of Greater New Orleans, Sierra Club's Honey Island Group, Common Ground Relief and Limitless Vistas joined in with LICI volunteers to plant irises and cypress trees near a popular picnic pavilion after they had cleared the area of underbrush.

The manager of Fontainebleau State Park, Fouad Harb, accepted a proposal made to him by LICI in December to clear out some of the vines and grass clumps, plant cypress trees, cut back some bushes, trim the lower branches from the existing cypress trees and plant irises in this prominent location. The idea is to turn this spot in the park into an example of a cypress tree/Louisiana iris freshwater bog over the next few years so that the public can safely see an example of this type of habitat, along with its blooming irises.

By the end of the work on the 27th the volunteers had planted over 1,000 I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris and 20 Bald Cypress trees, after totally transforming the area by clearing out brush and debris.

"Before" photo of the site is on left.

"After" photo is above

The picnic pavilion can be seen in the distance in the photos above. One of LICI's goals for the workday was to open up the iris planting area into view from this pavilion. The idea is that in the spring of 2022 this pavilion would be a great location for some type of public iris event or celebration while the irises are in bloom.

The irises came from LICI’s iris volunteer events this past summer where they were rescued from properties that are slated for development. They are the same species of wild Louisiana iris that is growing in some of the wetlands found within the park.

Photo on left: The usual base station was set up for the volunteer event. It had water, snacks, a first-aid kit and lawn chairs for anyone wanting to take a break. LICI volunteer, Leigh Anne Salathe, is seen manning the base station.

Work began by cutting back the rattle-box bushes and picking up debris and trash.

Photo on right: Tree limbs are being trimmed from the existing cypress trees.

All of the irises seen in the photo were planted last year as a test. They bloomed last spring and then were battered numerous times this past hurricane season from tropical systems that blew through the area with their very high tides. The fact that they not only survived, but are thriving, is what gave LICI the green light to expand the iris planting with the event on the 27th and to move forward with the full multi-year project.

Photo on left: Volunteers work to open up the area near the picnic pavilion by clearing out some of the brush. They then began planting irises in the spaces they created.

The plan is to come back next winter if all goes well with this iris planting to expand it into the areas that were not cleared by the group.

Photo above: Over twenty volunteers took part in this project, with nineteen of them shown in this "Last goodby and job well done!" photo.

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Updated: Feb 11, 2021

January 21, 2021 Morgan City, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) organized an iris planting on Wednesday, January 20th at the Cajun Coast Visitors & Convention Bureau's visitors center in Morgan City, Louisiana. Volunteers from Common Ground Relief and LICI planted I. giganticaerulea species irises from the LICI iris rescue program.

The purpose of the Cajun Coast visitors center is to introduce to the public all things that the Acadian region of south Louisiana has to offer to visitors. The raised building is actually located within a cypress swamp and has an outdoor deck that circles the building. It allows visitors to safely see and experience a typical Louisiana cypress swamp.

The Cajun Coast Visitor's Center Last year the LICI learned that the swamp next to the visitors center had no Louisiana irises growing in it. Although there are some healthy clumps of irises growing out in the swamp on either side of the building in the distance, they were too far away to be seen from the deck. Since the Louisiana iris is an important part of Cajun culture, it was thought something had to be done about this problem of no blooming irises being in view to visitors at the center.

Kim Walden, member of the Cajun Coast Visitors & Convention Bureau, and Christal L. Carter, manager of the Cajun Coast Visitors Center, in December wholeheartedly agreed to LICI's proposal to plant native irises in the swamp around the building.

The iris planting was scheduled for January since the water level is down

during winter's typical north winds and low tides.

It is always difficult to estimate how many iris are brought out to these plantings. Since many of the irises, as shown in the photo on left, were single irises that take up less space in the trailer as compared to clumps, it's possible there were as many as 500-600 irises planted that day.

The volunteers planted the irises in the soft, semi-liquid, rich muck that passes as soil in Louisiana's swamps. Photo on right: A long pole with a small digging tool attached to the end was used to plant irises out from the narrow area of firm ground on the rights side and rear of the building. The other volunteers used rakes to break through the surface to the soft ground or muck below.

Photo on left: Two of the Common Ground Relief volunteers at work behind the building. Wearing masks and social distancing was practice by the volunteers.

Photo on right: Some of the irises that were planted. The area of the photo will likely have 4" to 6" of standing water when the tide returns to its typical spring and summer height.

Seven of the eight volunteers pose for the "last goodby and job well done!" photo.

The Cajun Coast Visitors Center location and contact info:

Morgan City Visitor Center

900 Dr Martin Luther King Blvd

Morgan City, LA 70380

985-380-8224 or 800-256-2931

Open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm

Saturday & Sunday, 9 am to 3 pm

Their website can be found here:

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