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December 9, 2022 Braithwaite, LA

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) completed its Louisiana iris planting for the 2022 winter planting season at St. Bernard State Park on December 9, 2022. A small group of volunteers from LICI and Common Ground Relief dug up 500 irises from LICI's iris holding area in the morning and planted all 500 at the state park in the afternoon. "On yet another unseasonably warm day for December, the group worked hard to get the job done," says LICI's president, Gary Salathe, who was the project leader.

Some of the volunteers from Common Ground Relief are seen digging the irises from their containers at the LICI iris holding area in New Orleans on the morning of the iris planting at St. Bernard State Park.

The I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris from the LICI's iris rescue program was used for the planting. Many of the irises were rescued from sites where they were threatened with destruction this past spring and summer.

This iris planting continues LICI's multi-year iris restoration project, which began at the state park with its first planting in 2020. There are some I. giganticaerulea irises naturally growing in the park, but they are not in locations where they can be easily seen by visitors to the park.

The drainage area is shown in the photo where the irises were planted.

The irises on December 9th were planted in a drainage area that passes through the park's picnic area directly behind a large pavilion. The picnic area is heavily used during the spring when the irises will be in bloom. " We hope that the iris plantings we are doing at the park will help attract more visitors to the park when the irises are in bloom, which will help to achieve the goals of the park and our goals to increase the public's awareness of this special native plant. A true win/win deal", Salathe says.

Josh Benitez, Co-director of Common Ground Relief, is in the foreground of the photo planting some of the 500 Louisiana irises a group of volunteers planted at St. Bernard State Park on December 9, 2022.

The irises planted in 2020 are shown blooming in April of 2022 at LICI's iris restoration project at St. Bernard State Park.

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Updated: Dec 8, 2022

December 8, 2022 Lockport, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) completed its iris and cypress tree planting for the winter 2022 planting season at the Lockport, La.'s Elevated Wetlands Boardwalk on December 7, 2022. This iris planting continues LICI's multi-year iris restoration project that began in 2020 there. Planting cypress trees were added to the work the group took on last winter at the boardwalk after Hurricane Ida blew down many of the young trees in the swamp.

Two volunteers from LICI start moving irises back along the boardwalk at the start of the planting event.

The group worked hard in the unseasonably warm December weather to get a few hundred Louisiana irises and twenty-two Bald Cypress trees planted in the swamp around the boardwalk. The work had been pushed back into December, hoping that cold weather would keep any snakes and alligators away. Instead, a warm spell had the temperature up to the low 80's on the planting day. Fortunately, neither snakes nor alligators were seen near the volunteers as they worked.

A volunteer from Common Ground Relief is seen getting ready to put on a pair of snake bite-proof chaps, which were offered to all of the volunteers.

Common Ground Relief helped out with the planting event by supplying some of the volunteers and all of the cypress trees. LICI and Common Ground Relief work together on many events and are partnering on a major tree planting project in the Bayou Sauvage National Urban Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans this winter.

The volunteers are seen planting irises in the swamp near the boardwalk.

LICI ranked the Lockport boardwalk as the third best location to see wild Louisiana irises blooming in their native habitat on our 2022 Iris Viewing Locations Interactive Map they released last spring. "The boardwalk will likely hold that position again for 2023's map", LICI's president, Gary Salathe, says.

Co-director of Common Ground Relief, Charlotte Clarke, is seen planting irises.

The volunteers planted I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris from LICI's iris rescue program. They were dug up two days before from the group's iris-holding area in New Orleans, where they had grown and strengthened up in containers since they were rescued at two different sites.

LICI recently learned that Lafourche Parish is working towards making a decision soon to extend the boardwalk. "We'd like to think the interest by the public we helped create through our marketing of the boardwalk during the last two iris blooms have helped that cause. All of this would not have been possible without the help our volunteers have done in rescuing and then planting the irises there," Salathe sums up.

The volunteers are seen as they finish up work planting irises on December 8, 2022, during an iris and tree planting event at the Lockport, La. boardwalk.

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Updated: Dec 16, 2022

December 4, 2022 Grand Isle, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) has completed two Louisiana iris plantings at their iris restoration project at The Nature Conservancy's Grilletta Tract in Grand Isle, La. The group finished up this season's iris planting with a volunteer event on Saturday, December 3, 2022, when an estimated 400 irises were planted. An earlier iris planting in November resulted in about 600 irises being planted.

Photo: Volunteers work to plant hundreds of Louisiana irises at The Nature Conservancy's Grilletta Tract of its Lafitte Woods properties in Grand Isle, La. on November 6, 2022.

LICI is a Louisiana non-profit corporation formed by individuals interested in preserving and restoring the Louisiana iris in habitats where it once grew in abundance. They "rescue" native species of the Louisiana iris that are threatened with destruction and relocate them to protected areas where they can also be viewed by the public in refuges and nature preserves. The group has completed iris plantings and has iris restoration projects throughout south Louisiana.

Photo: The iris being planted by LICI at the Grilletta Tract boardwalk in Grand Isle, La. is the I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris, which is native to Grand Isle, according to The Nature Conservancy's biologist.

The first planting of Louisiana irises on the Grilletta Tract was done in 2019 by the Grand Isle Garden Club using irises rescued from a site west of New Orleans where they were threatened with destruction when a gravel parking lot was extended. Since that time LICI has been back to the Grilletta Tract numerous times to plant more irises. "There are likely a few thousand irises now growing there," says LICI's president, Gary Salathe. He said the plan is to use the freshwater bog where the irises have been planted as a location for them to grow and expand in number. They can then be thinned out in future years to transplant to other tracts of land within the Lafitte Woods.

Photo: Some of the volunteers are shown planting irises at the second 2022 winter iris planting in Grand Isle, La.

Volunteers from LICI also helped remove debris from the boardwalk area after Hurricane Zeta in 2020 and Hurricane Ida in 2021. "One of the things we hope to accomplish with these iris plantings is to help Grand Isle recover their tourism industry from the setbacks caused by these two major hurricanes," Salathe says. LICI heavily promoted the irises at the boardwalk when they were in bloom during April and have been told that it resulted in many people from outside of the area traveling to Grand Isle to see them.

Photo: LICI's volunteers work to clear hurricane debris from the boardwalk in Grand Isle after Hurricane Ida in 2021.

The Nature Conservancy’s Grand Isle properties are there to preserve what were once large stands of trees, including live oaks, that covered the entire island. These trees are the first that birds have to rest on after arriving at Grand Isle from their long journey flying across the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico through the central flyway from Central and South America. It's also the last chance for birds to rest after coming from across the central areas of the United States on their way back in the fall before crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Birders from around the country come to Grand Isle and this tract of land because it offers them the chance to see a congregation of different bird species within a small area.

A secondary goal of The Nature Conservancy for their Grand Isle properties is to preserve, increase, or reestablish native plants that grow or have grown on the island. "That's where the irises come in," Salathe says. "It's nice that our goals overlap. We look forward to continuing our partnership with The Nature Conservancy on this project for a long time into the future," Salathe sums up.

Photo: An example of one of the old-growth live oak tree forests found within the Lafitte Woods of the Nature Conservancy properties in Grand Isle, La. Because the two recent hurricanes have opened up areas of the tree canopy, it may allow irises to flourish there. Jean Landry, program manager for The Nature Conservancy properties in Grand Isle, spent some time with LICI's Gary Salathe after the iris planting on Saturday, December 3rd to look over sites like this for potential test plantings of Louisiana irises to see if they could become the locations for future larger plantings.

Photo: The volunteers for the November 6, 2022, Louisiana iris planting at The Nature Conservancy property in Grand Isle, La. are shown.

Photo: The volunteers for the December 3, 2022, Louisiana iris planting at The Nature Conservancy property in Grand Isle, La. are shown.

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