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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.

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December 9, 2022 Braithwaite, LA


The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) completed its Louisiana iris planting for the 2022 winter planting season at St. Bernard State Park on December 9, 2022. A small group of volunteers from LICI and Common Ground Relief dug up 500 irises from LICI's iris holding area in the morning and planted all 500 at the state park in the afternoon. "On yet another unseasonably warm day for December, the group worked hard to get the job done," says LICI's president, Gary Salathe, who was the project leader.

Some of the volunteers from Common Ground Relief are seen digging the irises from their containers at the LICI iris holding area in New Orleans on the morning of the iris planting at St. Bernard State Park.


The I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris from the LICI's iris rescue program was used for the planting. Many of the irises were rescued from sites where they were threatened with destruction this past spring and summer.


This iris planting continues LICI's multi-year iris restoration project, which began at the state park with its first planting in 2020. There are some I. giganticaerulea irises naturally growing in the park, but they are not in locations where they can be easily seen by visitors to the park.

The drainage area is shown in the photo where the irises were planted.


The irises on December 9th were planted in a drainage area that passes through the park's picnic area directly behind a large pavilion. The picnic area is heavily used during the spring when the irises will be in bloom. " We hope that the iris plantings we are doing at the park will help attract more visitors to the park when the irises are in bloom, which will help to achieve the goals of the park and our goals to increase the public's awareness of this special native plant. A true win/win deal", Salathe says.

Josh Benitez, Co-director of Common Ground Relief, is in the foreground of the photo planting some of the 500 Louisiana irises a group of volunteers planted at St. Bernard State Park on December 9, 2022.


The irises planted in 2020 are shown blooming in April of 2022 at LICI's iris restoration project at St. Bernard State Park.

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December 8, 2022 Lockport, La.


The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) completed its iris and cypress tree planting for the winter 2022 planting season at the Lockport, La.'s Elevated Wetlands Boardwalk on December 7, 2022. This iris planting continues LICI's multi-year iris restoration project that began in 2020 there. Planting cypress trees were added to the work the group took on last winter at the boardwalk after Hurricane Ida blew down many of the young trees in the swamp.

Two volunteers from LICI start moving irises back along the boardwalk at the start of the planting event.


The group worked hard in the unseasonably warm December weather to get a few hundred Louisiana irises and twenty-two Bald Cypress trees planted in the swamp around the boardwalk. The work had been pushed back into December, hoping that cold weather would keep any snakes and alligators away. Instead, a warm spell had the temperature up to the low 80's on the planting day. Fortunately, neither snakes nor alligators were seen near the volunteers as they worked.

A volunteer from Common Ground Relief is seen getting ready to put on a pair of snake bite-proof chaps, which were offered to all of the volunteers.


Common Ground Relief helped out with the planting event by supplying some of the volunteers and all of the cypress trees. LICI and Common Ground Relief work together on many events and are partnering on a major tree planting project in the Bayou Sauvage National Urban Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans this winter.

The volunteers are seen planting irises in the swamp near the boardwalk.


LICI ranked the Lockport boardwalk as the third best location to see wild Louisiana irises blooming in their native habitat on our 2022 Iris Viewing Locations Interactive Map they released last spring. "The boardwalk will likely hold that position again for 2023's map", LICI's president, Gary Salathe, says.

Co-director of Common Ground Relief, Charlotte Clarke, is seen planting irises.


The volunteers planted I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris from LICI's iris rescue program. They were dug up two days before from the group's iris-holding area in New Orleans, where they had grown and strengthened up in containers since they were rescued at two different sites.


LICI recently learned that Lafourche Parish is working towards making a decision soon to extend the boardwalk. "We'd like to think the interest by the public we helped create through our marketing of the boardwalk during the last two iris blooms have helped that cause. All of this would not have been possible without the help our volunteers have done in rescuing and then planting the irises there," Salathe sums up.


The volunteers are seen as they finish up work planting irises on December 8, 2022, during an iris and tree planting event at the Lockport, La. boardwalk.



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