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Updated: Jun 7

April 21, 2022 New Orleans, La.


The Louisiana iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) was able to plant 6,000 wild I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris in area refuges and nature preserves from June 2021 to February 2022, according to LICI board of directors member Gary Salathe. He said that LICI accomplished its goals for the year by using local volunteers since the COVID 19 pandemic shut down out-of-state college students from coming in to help. In pre-pandemic times, the students came to southeast Louisiana to help with plant restoration projects in the marshes. They were motivated to assist in the tremendous effort to rebuild the wetlands and accrue service credit hours.


LICI's projects rescue irises threatened with destruction and then relocate the irises to area refuges and nature preserves. In the process, they restore the irises in areas where they once were plentiful. Achieving their goal for this year was a challenge because the last two years required many more volunteer events of 6 - 8 people from the local area to accomplish what 15 – 20 out-of-state college students could do in just one outing, according to Salathe.

Photo: Local volunteers working on a LICI iris rescue in July 2021.


Another challenge LICI faced in 2021-2022 in meeting their iris planting goal was their taking on a major tree planting project at a US Fish & Wildlife Service refuge. The refuge is also home to one of their most significant iris restoration projects. "The tree-planting project not only diverted our attention from rescuing and planting irises but took up huge blocks of our volunteers' time," Salathe said. He added that a significant positive was that the volunteers played a crucial role in reforesting an essential area of the refuge after other volunteers led by LICI killed off thousands of Chinese tallow trees. The tallow tree is an invasive species that out-competes native trees and crowds out the Louisiana irises.


What also added to the difficulty of matching the 8,000 Louisiana irises LICI rescued and planted in the 2020-2021 season was that a mighty Hurricane Ida hit southeast Louisiana on August 29, 2021. "We spent many volunteer hours helping get many of the refuges' boardwalks back in shape after the hurricane-damaged them," Salathe says. The good news was that the irises at only one of LICI's projects were significantly set back from the hurricane. The rest recovered in time for this spring's iris bloom.

Photo: An example of the damage that Hurricane Ida did to one of LICI's iris restoration projects is these photos of the Louisiana irises at the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Joyce Management Area's Swampwalk boardwalk near Ponchatoula, La. The image on the left is before Hurricane Ida and on the right is a photo of the same area two weeks after the hurricane.


As the iris bloom began in late March of 2022, LICI's volunteers, including LICI board member Paul Christiansen, switched hats from iris rescuers to iris public relations specialists. One of LICI's partners on many projects, Common Ground Relief, worked with them to create the second annual interactive google map titled "Louisiana Iris Viewing Locations 2022". This map had sixteen locations where the public could see wild irises in bloom. LICI ranked the sites on the map from "The Best" to "Very Good."


When LICI did a Facebook posting of the map, it reached over 47,000 people. Over 17,000 people downloaded the map. The excitement it created resulted in numerous news reports about the locations found on the map in area newspapers, social media, and TV news shows. More people than ever went out to the sites - most of which were locations of LICI's iris restoration projects - to see the irises bloom. It was a massive win for all involved, including the landowners that saw attendance pick up at their sites.

Photo: College students from Iowa State University are shown in March, 2022 planting irises into containers at the LICI iris holding area in New Orleans. They had rescued the irises that morning as the first LICI iris rescue for the 2022-2023 season.


Since late January, the college student groups have begun to return. "We have already completed our first iris rescue and have two groups coming at the end of June that we hope will fill up the remaining containers at our iris holding area with irises for this fall and winter's plantings," Salathe says.


Many new sites have requested irises from LICI. The group also wants to add more irises to their existing projects, so they have set a goal to get at least 8,000 irises rescued and planted during the 2022-2023 iris rescue and planting season.


Here are pictures from the iris bloom in March and April 2022 at locations on the LICI/Common Ground Relief map of places to see irises blooming. Many of the sites listed are LICI's ongoing iris restoration projects:


Photo: LICI's volunteer, Mike Glaspell, once again took some great photos at the Lockport, La. boardwalk during the iris bloom there.


Photo: LICI board of directors member and volunteer, Paul Christiansen, sent in some really nice photos to the LICI Facebook page of the blooming irises at LICI's Bayou Sauvage refuge project.


Photo: "Once again the naturally occurring Louisiana irises on the Boy Scout Road trail in the Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge did not disappoint", Salathe says.


Photo: LICI's volunteer, Henry Cancienne, took his annual tour of iris locations across south Louisiana again this year sending LICI pictures almost every day. This photo was taken just before sunrise at the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge boardwalk.


Photo: This photo is of the irises blooming at the Town of Jean Lafitte boardwalk, home to a multi-year LICI iris restoration project. The irises there took the biggest hit from Hurricane Ida, but still managed to produce some blooms as they struggled to come back.


Photo: The irises in LICI's project at the Cajun Coast Visitor's Center in Morgan City, La. are in their second year. They are beginning to put on real show in the swamp at the entrance to the visitor's center.


Photo: The irises blooming in LICI's project at the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Joyce Management Area's Swampwalk near boardwalk did not disappoint. "It confirmed that we made a good decision declaring it #1 on our map of places to see wild blooming irises", Salathe says.


Photo: The irises at LICI's Grand Isle, La. iris restoration project brought people to this hard hit community helping businesses as they try to come back from Hurricane Ida.


Photo: LICI's new project at the Recreation District #1 / Pelican Park near Mandeville, La. surprisingly bloomed during its first year. Salathe said, "Although this picture is not very impressive, what is impressive and is very exciting to us is that the park director has given us permission and encouragement to fill the entire shoreline of this detention area with our rescued irises for as far as you can see in the photo." The plan is for them to grow them out for future LICI iris restoration projects.


Photo: The irises at LICI's project in the Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge near Houma, La. are doing great and are expanding.


Photo: The irises in "Iris Grove" at the Northlake Nature Center near Mandeville, La. are expanding again after being knocked back by high water in 2021.



Photo: The irises in LICI's project at St. Bernard State Park are only in their second year, "but they really put on a show this spring when they bloomed", according to Salathe.


Photo: The irises blooming in City Park at the town of New Iberia, La. are shown in April. Its only the first year of the project, but LICI has plans to significantly increase the number of irises there this year.


Photo: LICI did not plant any of the irises shown in this picture, "but I guess you could say its an iris project that we did this year that we are particularly proud of ", Salathe says. LICI's volunteers helped the National Park Service count and map Louisiana irises that they found last year growing in the middle of the Chalmette Battlefield. Info can be found here.


Photo: Louisiana irises blooming at LICI's project in Fontainebleau State Park, near Mandeville, La.


Photo: The irises LICI planted at Sankofa Wetland Park and Nature Trail in New Orleans are doing well in their second year.


You can email your contact information if you would like to get email notices of LICI's volunteer events here: licisaveirises@gmail.com


The LICI Facebook page can be found here.


Although LICI “is a bare-bones deal”, as Gary likes to say, he is quick to add that they can always use donations to their cause. They have a “Donate” button at the top of their website home page here. They are currently raising money for maintenance and supplies at the LICI iris holding area.

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Updated: Jun 7

April 8, 2022 New Orleans, La.


AP News reporter Janet McConnaughey has an interest in Louisiana irises. She has reported on iris restoration projects over the last few years. It caught her attention when Janet received word that Louisiana irises were discovered in the center of the US Park Service's Chalmette Battlefield. However, she became very interested when she learned that no one had known the irises were there until they were discovered by a Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) volunteer last year. Then word got out that it is believed that these irises are the remnants of irises that once grew in the gardens of homes in the 100-year-old community of Fazendeville. The US government expropriated the thirty houses on the single street in the center of the battlefield in the early 1960s to combine the battlefield with a nearby national cemetery. Janet decided to attend an event organized by the US Park Service and LICI to learn more.


Photo: AP News reporter Janet McConnaughey, (left of center in photo with satchel) is seen taking notes on April 2nd as Woody Keim, a great-great-grandson of the Fazendeville's founder, tells the story of the Frazendeville community and it's being torn down. He is also a producer of a TV documentary being filmed about the community, which dates back to the late 1800's.


US Park Service was working on an inventory of plants at the battlefield. LICI partnered with the US Park Service for this project at their request because they thought iris fans would do a better job of finding the irises. They also appreciated our involvement in discovering the irises and our desire to move some of them closer to where the public can see them. An event was planned for April 2nd, 2022 to count the irises as they were blooming and to map their location.


Kristy Wallisch, a LICI volunteer and retired US Park Service ranger is heading up LICI's involvement in the project. She worked with the park staff to organize the event.


As everyone arrived on Saturday, April 2nd, to do the count and mapping, a storm blew in that looked like it would last for most of the morning. The US Park Service canceled the event for the day. However, Janet was there, along with other reporters who had gotten word of the story, so they decided to interview everyone involved while they were all in one place.


Photo: Storm clouds move in on the group gathering to do the iris count on April 2, 2022. After nearby lightning strikes, the US Park Service personnel postponed the event until April 6.


AP put Janet's story out onto their wire service that afternoon. You can find it by clicking here.


Media sites across the country picked up her news article. "We started getting emails within hours of the story's release, and they continued coming in for two weeks afterward," LICI board of directors and volunteer Gary Salathe said. He said the emails were from small-town newspapers to the national ABC News "and everything in-between." They also received many emails from all over the country from people who read the article. "The story impacted many people in many different ways," Salathe says.


The group decided to reschedule the volunteer event for the following Wednesday, April 6.


Photo: On April 6th the weather was much nicer and the irises were at peak bloom.


This time other media reporters showed up including, Morgan Lentes, a local TV news anchor for NBC's New Orleans affiliate station, WDSU. She filed this report.


Photo: WDSU news anchor, Morgan Lentes, is seen interviewing Kristy Wallisch, a LICI volunteer that is heading up LICI's involvement in the project.


Also present that day was a staff photographer for NOLA.com, Sophia Germer, who filed this report.


Photo: Volunteers begin to arrive at the start of the iris counting and mapping event on April 6, 2022.


By the end of the day, the irises were all counted. The preliminary estimate is that there were between 2,504-3,750 irises and 53-80 crinum lilies.


"We're looking forward to seeing if the map being created by the US Park Service staff showing the iris locations sheds some light on which homes the irises may have originated from. The plan is to overlay the map onto aerial photos of the community before the homes were torn down", Salathe says.


"I never thought my iris hobby would have a forensic archaeology aspect!" Salathe sums up.

Photo: One of the aerial photos that the US Park Service archives of the community of Fazendeville before it was torn down in the early 1960's.





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Updated: May 17

March 24, 2022 New Orleans, La


Click here to see the articles:

Bayou and Marsh, exerpt February 2016.hires
.pdf
Download PDF • 5.55MB

Enjoy!


Not many people know that the name Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative is derived from the first Louisiana iris society created in the early 1930's. It was named the Louisiana Iris Conservation Society.


The articles in the link at the top of this page are from the February 2017 Bayou and Marsh newsletter of the Greater New Orleans Iris Society. LICI got in touch with the editor and author of the articles, Patrick O'Connor, and he was good enough to not only give us permission to re-post it, but he also extracted the key articles from the newsletter so we wouldn't have to re-post the entire issue.


Not many people realize just how big of a deal Louisiana irises have been to the culture of south Louisiana. These articles help to show just how big of a deal it was.







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