Iris Planting at the US Park Service's Chalmette Battlefied
Updated: Feb 14
February 11, 2021 Chalmette, La.
The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) completed a Louisiana iris planting at the Chalmette Battlefield on Wednesday, February 10, 2021. Thirty clumps of the I. giganticaerulea species of Louisiana iris were planted as a test batch to see how the irises do this spring and summer. LICI's plan, if the irises do well, is to organize a significant planting in the fall by inviting the public to participate.
The Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815 as the last event in the War of 1812 between the British and the new American nation. The battle was fought between a professional British army and a rag-tag, thrown together, US military force that resulted in a victory for the young United States over what was then a world power. The field that the battle was actually fought on is now a US Park Service site named the Chalmette Battlefield, which is located just downriver from New Orleans.
Photo above: The breastworks that the American troops stood behind to fire on the British troops, who were advancing in formation across an open field, have been reconstructed in the exact location where they were in 1815.
The battlefield was bordered by a cypress swamp on the north with the river batture (wetland) along the Mississippi River on its south side. The battlefield is in St. Bernard parish where Louisiana irises grew in vast numbers within its swamps and marshes throughout history. Because of this, the US Park Service approved the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative planting these native Louisiana irises in a bog that is located along the south side of the battlefield.
Photo on right: The area selected to plant the irises is a freshwater bog located between the loop road and the Mississippi River levee. As shown on the map, this area is near Colonel Rennie's attack, which was a feign meant to confuse the Americans on where the actual main attack would take place further north in the field. Colonel Rennie was killed during the attack.
Gary Salathe, LICI volunteer and board of directors member, summed up the thinking of all involved in the project, "We don't know if the bog existed when the battle was fought in 1815, but its a nice thought that in this small spot, in a field where so much violence and death took place over 200 years ago, beautiful wild Louisiana irises will soon be blooming each spring."
Photo on left: The monument to British generals Pakenham and Gibbs is shown at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England. Both were killed during the Battle of New Orleans.
US National Park Service personnel, lead by staff ecologist Julie Whitbeck, helped LICI apply for the permit to plant the irises. It was only the second permit issued at the battlefield in the last ten years because of the rigorous criteria that is used to consider a proposed project on US National Park Service property. Whitbeck personally guided LICI's permit application through the lengthy and very detailed approval process.
Blaise Pezold, of The Meraux Foundation, introduced LICI to the park personnel and suggested their doing the project.
Photo above: Three of four LICI volunteers planting clumps of irises at the Chamlette Battlefield on February 10th.
Photo on left: Many of the irises were planted along the edge of an area that holds water year-round, except during the driest periods when the soil is still moist.
Salathe reports that the wet area of the battlefield where the irises were planted is very similar to the property where the irises were rescued from, including being bush-hogged twice each year during the spring and autumn dry periods. "The end result is that this location could potentially be used as a place to relocate thousands of irises from that property. It would put them in a new permanently protected home where the irises will be available for the public to enjoy while they bloom", he said.
A US National Park Service Facebook video about the Battle of New Orleans can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=448435989513259