December 19, 2022 New Orleans, La.
The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative began its winter Louisiana iris plantings at the Bayou Sauvage National Urban Wildlife Refuge in eastern New Orleans on December 19, 2022. A group of volunteers from the University of South Dakota planted over 400 Louisiana irises and 33 bald cypress trees along the refuge boardwalk near the display platform. Common Ground Relief hosted the student-volunteers during the week as they did service activities in the New Orleans area.
The volunteers are seen unloading the irises at the Bayou Sauvage refuge on the morning of Monday December 19, 2022.
The Bayou Sauvage refuge is home to one of LICI's most important multi-year iris restoration projects. They also have a significant tree-planting project there in partnership with Common Ground Relief. Monday's iris planting was the first of LICI's 2022 winter planting season at the refuge. It will be followed with multiple smaller plantings over the next few weeks. The non-profit's goal is to get about 1,500 irises in the ground at the refuge before the end of January. Monday's planting helped get that effort kicked off.
In addition to the Louisiana irises, the group planted 33 one-gallon potted bald cypress trees and installed nutria guards on 50 previously planted cypress trees.
Gary Salathe, with LICI, explained, "Our iris restoration project at the refuge had a setback in 2021 when extreme rains in late spring raised the water level at the irises too high. We lost quite a few irises in part because just as the water level was dropping, Hurricane Ida hit the area, flooding the iris area all over again. We started replanting areas last winter where some of the irises were killed off, and this planting is a continuation of that effort."
The Louisiana irises shown as they are blooming in April of 2021 at the Bayou Sauvage refuge boardwalk display platform.
The I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris from LICI's iris rescue program was used for the planting. Salathe said that they hope the iris plantings they did last winter and the plantings they will be doing this winter will get the number of irises back to where they were during the spring of 2021.
The volunteers are shown planting irises at the Bayou Sauvage refuge on
December 19, 2022.
Part of the work that LICI did during the fall of 2021 at the refuge was planting 6,000 Louisiana iris seeds in areas along the length of the old Bayou Sauvage, which is where their project is located. "We weren't sure if those seeds had germinated because the area went into an extended dry period that lasted into the spring of 2022. However, we were very excited to see for the first time many of the seeds coming up as new irises in the few areas we worked in on Monday. This could be a game-changer for the project's success if many of the seeds survived and have now started growing", Salathe said.
Some of the irises sprouting from seeds can be seen in the foreground of the photo.
LICI ranked the Bayou Sauvage refuge boardwalk as the second best location to see wild Louisiana irises blooming in their native habitat on their 2022 Iris Viewing Locations Interactive Map that was released last spring. Salathe says it is very likely that it will either hold that position for 2023 or it may move up to the number-one spot for the first time. "If many of the 6,000 seeds we planted in 2021 have germinated, the boardwalk will most certainly take the number one spot for 2024 because that will be the first year that these irises will bloom", Salathe added.