December 13, 2020 New Orleans, La.
The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) was invited this fall by the staff of Sankofa Wetland Park and Nature Trail to donate and help plant native Louisiana irises at the park. The date for the planting was set for Saturday, December 13, 2020 after a couple months waiting for the contractor to complete work on his reconstruction of the main pond.
Volunteers from the Master Naturalist of Greater New Orleans, Native Plant Initiative of Greater New Orleans, Sankofa and LICI braved the rainy weather and planted of over 1,000 I. giganticaerulea Louisiana species irises and twenty cypress trees along the pond bank. Tricia LeBlanc, Sankofa Wetland Park & Nature Trail Program Director, and Tia Divok, Wetland Park & Nature Trails Program Coordinator, organized the event and were there to supervise the work. Gary Salathe, with LICI, delivered the irises and oversaw their planting.
Photo on left: Over 1,000 I. giganticaerulea Louisiana species irises are shown arriving at Sankofa Wetland Park and Nature Trail for the iris and cypress tree planting event.
The irises came from iris rescue events LICI did in June and July on a tract of land that has plans for development. They have been growing in containers at the nearby LICI iris holding area.
Photo above: Volunteers begin to arrive and sign-in as the rain begins to come to an end.
The volunteers started to arrive while it was still raining. The weather prediction was for the rain to end shortly after the 9 AM start time, which it did. Part of the sign-in process was for each person to fill out a questionnaire to be sure that no one had any symptoms of COVID 19.
Photo above: Work begins planting the irises and cypress trees. Tricia LeBlanc (shown in the center with the dark blue rain coat) is seen supervising the cypress tree planting.
Tia Divok, of Sankofa, kept everyone supplied with irises and cypress trees and made sure everything was going safely and smoothly.
Six or seven volunteers decided to plant just irises while the remainder started planting cypress trees. Gary Salathe, with LICI, supervised the volunteers planting irises.
Photo on right: The irises were planted no closer than 36” from the new cypress trees to give them an opportunity to grow out into the water in the hope that once the cypress trees roots expand out over the next few years the irises and trees can coexist.
The irises were planted in groups of about four to six plants. Many of the irises had four or five new offshoots just starting to grow out from the rhizome, so they will multiply and fill out very quickly over the next two or three years.
The cypress trees were planted with a plastic protective sleeve installed to limit the chance of damage being done by nutria or deer. Deer will often scrape the bark of young cypress trees to mark their territory. Deer tracks were found in the area of this planting last month.
A representative of LICI had the opportunity in October and November to go out to the site to see how work was proceeding once work began on expanding the pond. During both trips he was able to talk to the equipment operator doing the work about how the ideal shoreline for planting wetland plants would be one that had a shallow submerged bottom that extended out about 30” from the bank before it began to drop off into deeper water.
Photo on left: The irises were planted at the waterline so that they can grow out onto the submerged shelf.
Photo above: A section of the pond bank after the iris planting was completed.
Sankofa has plans to do significant plantings of other types of trees and native plants in the coming months. Anyone is welcome to get on their volunteer notification list, which can be found here: https://sankofanola.org/volunteer/opportunities/