December 3, 2022 Des Allemands, La.
The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) made contact with a landowner along Hwy 90 in the town of Des Allemands, LA two years ago when they noticed he had put his family's land up for sale. They had been admiring the Louisiana irises each year when they bloomed that were growing in sections of the wet area in front of the property. The landowner's son had bush-hogged the ditch/wet area each year during the dry season. Because of this, it has never been sprayed with a herbicide by the state highway department. It was the only stretch of highway not sprayed, so the area had become a mini-wetland bog full of native swamp plants, including the Louisiana iris.
Photo: The Louisiana irises in bloom within the wet area in front of the Hwy 90 properties near Des Allemands, LA in April of 2021.
The landowner's son stopped maintaining the wet area once the property was put up for sale. The family had already sold a couple of parcels they created from the tract of land, and those new owners were not maintaining the wet area either. He told LICI that he believed it was only a question of time before the state would begin spraying the entire wet area to keep the drainage open along the highway. He encouraged them to get the irises out and relocate them to a safer location.
Photo: LICI volunteers digging irises from the Hwy 90 wet area during an iris rescue on July 10, 2021.
"Over the last two years, we have held at least three iris rescues at the property that has netted about 3,500 I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris," LICI's Gary Salathe says. This species of the Louisiana iris is the native wild iris found in that area.
Then in mid-November, the worse fears of the group were realized when the state Highway department sprayed the wet area from one end to the other with a herbicide. About 90% of the Louisiana irises that were in the parcels that LICI had not been able to rescue the irises yet were sprayed.
Photo: The sprayed wet area as seen on December 3, 2022 when one of LICI's volunteers was passing by the property and discovered they had been sprayed with a herbicide.
Salathe said, 'We are trying to stay focused on the positive; we'd like to thank our many volunteers who came out and worked hard to save the irises we rescued from this property during our three rescues. We'd also like to thank the volunteers who helped plant some of them at our iris-holding area and then maintained them. Then there are the volunteers that got down in the muck and planted the rescued irises from this property into their new homes at area refuges and nature preserves. Thank you. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the support and encouragement of the landowner. Thank you very much."
Photo: A close-up view of some of the Louisiana irises sprayed recently in a roadside wet area where LICI has been working to remove them.
Salathe continued, "It is a wonderful thing that all of these volunteers have done to get out a total of 3,500 irises that we "rescued" from this property. That is something to be proud of. All of those irises would have been sprayed 1 1/2 weeks ago if we hadn't rescued them. Instead, they were planted at the Lockport, LA boardwalk, the Grand Isle, LA Nature Conservancy boardwalk, the Cajun Coast Visitor's Center in Morgan City, LA, and the Bayou Sauvage refuge in New Orleans, LA where they are all living life large!" He said it is a "bittersweet win that we got most of the irises out. Even though we did not get them all, we'll still take the win. This is what we do."
Photo: Some of the irises rescued from the Hwy 90 property are shown blooming at the Cajun Coast Visitor's Center in Morgan City, La. during April of 2022.
Photo: Some of the irises rescued from the Hwy 90 property are shown blooming at the Lockport, La. Wetlands Elevated board in April of 2022.
Photo: Some of the irises rescued from the Hwy 90 property are shown blooming at The Nature Conservancy boardwalk in Grand Isle, La. in April of 2022.
Photo: Some of the irises rescued from the Hwy 90 property are shown blooming at the Bayou Sauvage National Urban Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans, La. in April of 2021.
"It is easy to get lulled into complacency when a few years go by, and nothing happens at a site where it's obvious that the irises are threatened. This is a lesson we already know and now have just been reminded of; you need to get those irises out as soon as you can," Salathe sums up.