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April 4, 2020 Mandeville, La.

Starting back in 2017 a small group of volunteers planted the first Louisiana species irises at the Northlake Nature Center. The management there had wholeheartedly agreed to accept

irises that were being rescued from properties where irises were threatened with destruction by development.

More irises were added after the first year when those first few irises did well and bloomed. Then the first "Louisiana Iris Bloom Celebration" was organized by the Nature Center to draw the public out to see this amazing display of blooming wild irises the following year. Well, one thing led to another, and the Northlake Nature Center became home to over 4,000 Louisiana species irises as more and

as more and more iris rescue projects were done and space was needed to find a home for them.

2020's event was to be third "Louisiana Iris Bloom Celebration". Expectations were high that this would be "The Big One" that everyone in the beginning envisioned would happen one day. Although the rules for fighting the COVID-19 virus caused the event to be cancelled, many families needed a place to get out of the house, so with social distancing the rule, huge numbers of people went to the Nature Center during the two week period the irises were in bloom instead of just attending a one day event.

The bloom lived up to everyone's expectations and it was spectacular, although it is very difficult to capture this in photos. It truly was the best display of wild, native Louisiana irises blooming in their natural habitat in Southeast Louisiana that can safely be seen by the public.

Gary Salathe, with the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI), was the driving force behind the project from its inception, but many volunteers played an important role in making it happen by collecting irises from the sites they needed to be rescued from and caring for them until they could be planted at the Northlake Nature Center.

The location where the irises were temporary stored and grown to strengthen up before being replanting was the Greater New Orleans Iris Society's (GNOIS) City Park iris nursery. The GNOIS not only shared their nursery space, but also supported the effort by supplying the plant growing containers, platforms for the growing containers and the potting soil. Members of the GNOIS also volunteered for the two Louisiana Iris Bloom Celebrations at the Nature Center, helping to make them both successful.

Special thanks goes out to the executive director of the Northlake Nature Center, Rue Mcneill and Larry Burch, CEO of the Northlake Nature Center, for taking a chance on the idea in the first place and then being totally supportive of the effort once things got rolling. They deserve credit for the recognition the Northlake Nature Center is now getting as the "Go-to place" to see native Louisiana irises in bloom.

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Updated: Jun 10, 2020

March 21, 2020 Houma, La.

Nicole Lundberg, Area Agent, Southwest Region (Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes) for Sea Grant Louisiana, and Shelley Stiaes, the manager of the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge, separately sent in these pictures to us during the iris bloom on the wetlands path at the refuge, which is located near Houma, Louisiana.

There were only a few small clumps of native Louisiana irises growing along the walking path and in the nearby marsh last fall. The irises were the remnants of what were once large numbers that grew in the refuge. They were the survivors from the impact of salt water being pushed into the freshwater marsh by tropical storm systems over the last few years.

It was thought that it would be a good idea to plant more irises to increase their numbers since the walking path is heavily used by the public. It would create an opportunity for the people in the area to experience Louisiana irises blooming in their natural habitat to help raise awareness of this beautiful native pant species. The irises would come from a project that recently rescued irises from a property that is permitted for development and places were needed to move them to.

Gary Salathe, with the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI), supplied the irises and lead the volunteer group that Nicole Lundberg put together to plant over 300 I. giganticaerulea species Louisiana irises at the walking path in November of 2019. The volunteers were with the Terrebonne parish 4H Club Junior Leaders. The pictures show that many of the irises they planted bloomed the first spring in their new home.

A video of the irises being planted can be found here:

More information on the Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge can be found here:

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Updated: Jun 18, 2020

March 14, 2020 Grand Isle, La.

The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana has preserved several small tracts of forest totaling about 41 acres on Grand Isle and has worked with local companies and residents to encourage restoration of former forests and promote environmental education through planting trees with school programs.

Grand Isle has long been recognized as one of the most important stopover sites for neotropical migratory birds flying across the Gulf of Mexico on their annual migration to and from North America. The trees on Grand Isle are often their first resting stop before or after making the five hundred mile flight across the Gulf.

Bryan and Melanie Benigno took these pictures of irises blooming at the Nature Conservancy's Grilletta Track in Grand Isle, La. The Grilletta track is just one of a number of parcels that comprise the Nature Conservancy's Lafitte Woods group of properties

that have some of the last native live oak forests that were once prevalent on the island back in history. These forests are extremely important as a resting stop for birds migrating north in the spring because the island is the first land they come to after their long journey flying across the Gulf of Mexico.

The number of birding people that come to Grand Isle during their annual bird migration celebration during the month of April is beginning to outnumber the number of people that come for their world famous Tarpon Rodeo. Many of the visitors end up walking the trails in the Nature Conservancy's properties.

There is a walking trail on the property that goes through a freshwater bog, which is above sea level and not affected by the tide. Bryan and Melanie like to hike the trail and they do so often. They ran across these blooming Louisiana irises which is the I. giganticaerulea species of iris.

Photos: Louisiana irises blooming on The Nature Conservancy's Grilletta Track in Grand Isle, La. on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

More information on The Nature Conservancy's Grand Isle properties can be found here:

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The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative, Inc. is a Louisiana non-profit corporation that has been formed for the purpose of organizing Louisiana iris rescue and planting projects involving wild, native irises threatened with destruction.