January 28, 2021 Mandeville, La.
The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) organized a Louisiana iris planting at Fontainebleau State Park on Wednesday, January 27th 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.