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Friends Group to Partner with LICI to Manage Irises at Palmetto Island State Park Boardwalk

May 31, 2023 Abbeville, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) has announced that the Friends of the Palmetto Island State Park, Inc. will partner with them on their iris restoration project at the Palmetto Island State Park's boardwalk. The Friends group will help support the project with funding. LICI will organize the work to maintain the I. nelsonii species of the Louisiana iris planting there and add more of these irises later this year. Gary Salathe, the president of LICI said, "We appreciate their support of the project, as well as the support of the park's staff and manager."

Photos: This outlines the items on the proposal accepted by the Louisiana Department of State Parks for LICI to manage the iris planting at the Palmetto Island State Park boardwalk. The Friends of the Park group has now joined as partners with LICI to accomplish

these tasks.

The iris restoration project at the boardwalk in Palmetto State Park began in 2011 as an idea by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries (LW&F). These irises are only found in the wild within the privately owned Abbeville Swamp, located a few miles from the park. The swamp is not open to the public. The idea was that some of the very rare I. nelsonni irises could be displayed for the public in a protected location at the park. The Friends of Palmetto Island State Park implemented plan. The Friends group purchased I. nelsonni irises for a planting that the LW&F proposed at the park’s boardwalk. The LW&F supplied the iris expertise, and volunteers of the Friends group did the planting. The Friends group added more irises the next year when they received a donation to purchase irises from the supplier that LW&F had previously recommended.

Photo: A view of the boardwalk at Palmetto State Park where the I. nelsonni irises are planted.

Soon after the 2011 iris plantings, Louisiana hybrid cultivars appeared in the boardwalk swamp among the I. nelsonni irises. Some of these cultivars cross-pollinated with the I. nelsonni, making it harder and harder to tell which irises were the original irises. The COVID pandemic stopped all work on managing the irises at the boardwalk. "LICI and the Friends group's partnership will start working to get 100% of the irises at the boardwalk to be pure I. nelsonni irises by removing the cultivars," says Gary Salathe, president of LICI.

Photo: Kent Benton is seen in a small area of his Louisiana iris plantings on his farm in Livingston Parish , La. He has offered to donate hundreds of I. nelsonni seedlings and potted irises for the Palmetto State Park iris restoration project.

The most important part of the iris restoration project at the park is to significantly increase the number of I. nelsonni irises growing there. Kent Benton, an iris enthusiast and expert on the iris, will donate between 800 and 1,000 I. nelsonni seedlings from his farm. LICI will accept the iris seedling donation and use their iris holding area in New Orleans to grow them into full-size plants. The goal is to prepare the irises for planting at the park's boardwalk this fall. A grant from the Friends' group is covering the cost of soil and installing the platform and containers for LICI to grow out the seedlings.

Photo: Volunteers at the LICI iris holding area are seen working during the fall of 2022. A separate row of containers will be installed to grow out the I. nelsonni irises being donated by Kent Benton for the Palmetto Island State Park project.

Salathe says that the plan is to get permission from the owners of the Abbeville Swamp to collect seeds from the I. nelsonni irises growing there this summer. Other interested groups with nurseries will help germinate the seeds for LICI to grow into mature plants next year for planting at the park's boardwalk. "If we can get the park's boardwalk swamp full of I. nelsonni irises, our long-term plan would be to thin them out to create a supply for increasing the irises within the Abbeville Swamp itself," Salathe says about one of the goals of the project. "The Friends of Palmetto Island State Park joining with us is going to play a key role in making this happen," he sums up.



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