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May 31, 2023 Abbeville, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) has announced that the Friends of the Palmetto Island State Park, Inc. will partner with them on their iris restoration project at the Palmetto Island State Park's boardwalk. The Friends group will help support the project with funding. LICI will organize the work to maintain the I. nelsonii species of the Louisiana iris planting there and add more of these irises later this year. Gary Salathe, the president of LICI said, "We appreciate their support of the project, as well as the support of the park's staff and manager."

Photos: This outlines the items on the proposal accepted by the Louisiana Department of State Parks for LICI to manage the iris planting at the Palmetto Island State Park boardwalk. The Friends of the Park group has now joined as partners with LICI to accomplish

these tasks.

The iris restoration project at the boardwalk in Palmetto State Park began in 2011 as an idea by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries (LW&F). These irises are only found in the wild within the privately owned Abbeville Swamp, located a few miles from the park. The swamp is not open to the public. The idea was that some of the very rare I. nelsonni irises could be displayed for the public in a protected location at the park. The Friends of Palmetto Island State Park implemented plan. The Friends group purchased I. nelsonni irises for a planting that the LW&F proposed at the park’s boardwalk. The LW&F supplied the iris expertise, and volunteers of the Friends group did the planting. The Friends group added more irises the next year when they received a donation to purchase irises from the supplier that LW&F had previously recommended.

Photo: A view of the boardwalk at Palmetto State Park where the I. nelsonni irises are planted.

Soon after the 2011 iris plantings, Louisiana hybrid cultivars appeared in the boardwalk swamp among the I. nelsonni irises. Some of these cultivars cross-pollinated with the I. nelsonni, making it harder and harder to tell which irises were the original irises. The COVID pandemic stopped all work on managing the irises at the boardwalk. "LICI and the Friends group's partnership will start working to get 100% of the irises at the boardwalk to be pure I. nelsonni irises by removing the cultivars," says Gary Salathe, president of LICI.

Photo: Kent Benton is seen in a small area of his Louisiana iris plantings on his farm in Livingston Parish , La. He has offered to donate hundreds of I. nelsonni seedlings and potted irises for the Palmetto State Park iris restoration project.

The most important part of the iris restoration project at the park is to significantly increase the number of I. nelsonni irises growing there. Kent Benton, an iris enthusiast and expert on the iris, will donate between 800 and 1,000 I. nelsonni seedlings from his farm. LICI will accept the iris seedling donation and use their iris holding area in New Orleans to grow them into full-size plants. The goal is to prepare the irises for planting at the park's boardwalk this fall. A grant from the Friends' group is covering the cost of soil and installing the platform and containers for LICI to grow out the seedlings.

Photo: Volunteers at the LICI iris holding area are seen working during the fall of 2022. A separate row of containers will be installed to grow out the I. nelsonni irises being donated by Kent Benton for the Palmetto Island State Park project.

Salathe says that the plan is to get permission from the owners of the Abbeville Swamp to collect seeds from the I. nelsonni irises growing there this summer. Other interested groups with nurseries will help germinate the seeds for LICI to grow into mature plants next year for planting at the park's boardwalk. "If we can get the park's boardwalk swamp full of I. nelsonni irises, our long-term plan would be to thin them out to create a supply for increasing the irises within the Abbeville Swamp itself," Salathe says about one of the goals of the project. "The Friends of Palmetto Island State Park joining with us is going to play a key role in making this happen," he sums up.

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May 20, 2023 Laplace, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) has completed five Louisiana iris rescues to assemble the irises needed for planting into the Nicholls State University's Wetlands Project. LICI signed onto the project at the Nicholls Farm earlier this year when construction of the project was nearing completion. There are two irises planting events scheduled at the farm for later this month when the irises will be planted.

Photo: The Nicholls State Farm Wetlands Project as seen on May 6, 2023.

The wetlands project is a joint effort between Nicholls State University and Ducks Unlimited. The plan is to pump water from nearby Bayou Folse into one end of the wetlands and have then have plants within the wetlands remove an overabundance of nutrients in the water. The bayou is really just a drainage canal at that upstream location. It drains nearby residential areas - many using individual septic tanks for sewerage treatment, some farmland and sugar cane fields (heavy fertilizer users), and some urban run-off from the town. Once the nutrients are reduced, water from the wetlands will be returned to the bayou and the process will then be repeated. The overall goal is to use it as a demonstration project to show how nutrients can be removed from rivers and creeks upstream in the Mississippi River watershed before they flow into the river. This will help reduce the size of the algae bloom each year in the Gulf of Mexico. A secondary goal is to use the wetlands as a wild duck habitat.

LICI was invited to partner in the project so it could be used as a home for its rescued irises. Louisiana irises remove huge amounts of nutrients from the water and soil in their swamps. The goal is to plant thousands of irises into the project by the end of this year, according to the LICI's Gary Salathe.

To get the irises for the Nicholls Farm project, LICI worked with two other non-profits that have supported their past efforts. Common Ground Relief scheduled an iris rescue with some students they were hosting for a five-day service visit to New Orleans. Limitless Vistas/ Gulf Corps offered to help by doing four iris rescues with their job-training crew.

Photo: Some of the twenty students for The College School in St. Louis, MO, are seen on an iris rescue organized by Common Ground Relief.

Common Ground Relief had an eighth-grade school group in from St. Louis, Missouri, from The College School for a week of service activities in late April. They ended up rescuing over 2,800 irises from a site west of New Orleans that LICI has been working to remove irises during the last few years.

Photo: Part of the Limitless Vistas/ Gulf Corps crew is shown at one of four iris rescues they did during the month of May to help gather the irises needed for the wetlands project.

LICI organized four iris rescues from the same site during the first part of May with Limitless Vistas/ Gulf Corps to get enough irises for the planned wetlands plantings during the last week of May. They collected a total of 3,000 irises.

"We really appreciate the help we received from these two groups to make sure we get off to a great start planting irises into this new project at Nicholls Farm," Salathe says.

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May 14, 2023 Madisonville, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) had accepted invitations from three organizations just after the start of 2023 to hold open an iris information booth at their events this spring. The last of the three events was held yesterday, May 13, 2023.

LICI participated in the Bayou Gardens Open House event put on by the US Fish & Wildlife Service on the grounds of their Lacombe, La. headquarters on February 25th. On Saturday, April 15th, LICI held open an iris information canopy at the Friends of the Palmetto Island State Park's Stir the Pot fundraising event in Vermilion Parish, La. LICI's third information canopy was held open at the Explore Nature event held by the Purple Martin Conservation Initiative in Denham Springs, La. yesterday.

One of the US Fish & Wildlife Service social media notices featured the Louisiana iris.

The Bayou Gardens Open House event was held at the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Lacombe, La. headquarters complex for their Southeast Louisiana refuges. The event's theme was gardening with wildflowers and other plants to help pollinators and wildlife. LICI's exhibit explained how the wild native Louisiana irises in the swamps and the hybrid Louisiana iris cultivars in home gardens are important pollinator plants for bumblebees and hummingbirds. Their booth featured LICI's Mike Glaspell's photos of hummingbirds and bumblebees feeding on the irises at the Lockport, La. boardwalk. "Mike helped us hold the booth open so he would be there in person to answer any questions about his photography or the Lockport boardwalk," says LICI's Gary Salathe.

LICI's informational booth at the Bayou Gardens Open House event highlighted photos of hummingbirds, insects, and bees feeding on blooming Louisiana irises. The photos were taken by Mike Glaspell, who is one of LICI's volunteers at three of its iris restoration

projects. Mike's hummingbird photos have become well-known and

appreciated among birding hobbyists.

Two LICI representatives and one of its volunteers met with a volunteer with Friends of Palmetto Island State Park along with their president at the boardwalk in Palmetto Island State Park on April 5, 2023. The purpose of the meeting was to review the history of the I. nelsonii Louisiana iris species that were planted at the boardwalk in 2011 and the work that the Friends group has done to try and maintain the planting. By the end of the meeting, LICI agreed to take on a project to increase the number of I. nelsonii irises growing there and to take over the maintenance of the project. After the meeting, the president of the Friends group invited LICI to hold open an information booth at their Stir the Pot annual fundraiser that was going to take place in the park the following Saturday. "We readily agreed since it would give us a chance to meet members of the Friends group and the local community," LICI's president, Gary Salathe said.

The Facebook posting for the 2023 Friends of Palmetto Island State Park Stir the Pot event is shown above. The annual event is the main fundraiser for the Friends group. This event on April 15th was going to be the first one held since the COVID 19 pandemic

kept it from being put on for the last two years.

LICI's volunteer manning the info booth at the event said he talked to many people about Louisiana irises and the I. nelsonii planting at the park's boardwalk and how LICI will be helping out with it. Some of the people visiting the booth offered to help with the effort.

Very heavy rain just after the start of the 2023 Friends of Palmetto Island State Park Stir the Pot event on April 15th reduced the number of people attending the event.

However, attendance rebounded once the rain ended.

LICI was invited to have an information booth at the 2023 Explore Nature Event in Denham Springs, La. held on Saturday, May 13, 2023. The event is put on each year by the Purple Martin Conservation Initiative (PMCI).

The Explore Nature event focuses on nature, conservation, and restoration. It is a way for the public to learn how to become a part of the growing effort to restore Louisiana's native habitats and wildlife. Krista Adams, president of PMCI, says, "It's an opportunity to learn how to become engaged in a wide range of things, from volunteering for marsh restoration projects, planting a pollinator garden, providing safe housing and food for our native birds or other activities to conserve our resources."

Some of the Explore Nature marketing feature a photo that was taken by Mike Glaspell

of a hummingbird feeding on an iris.

The event also included a guided bird walk, native plant and gardening information, live reptiles and birds, activities and face painting. Three LICI volunteers came out to the event to hold the LICI booth open.

"We welcome the opportunity these types of events gives us to meet and talk to the public about our work to conserve and restore our native Louisiana irises out in the swamps and marshes," Salathe says about LICI's willingness to hold open booths at events and festivals. "We try to do about four per year. Combined with having one of our volunteers appear as a guest speaker at local organizations' meetings, it's a great way for us to get the word out about what we do and to attract more volunteers," Salathe sums up.

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