July 28, 2021 Barataria, La.
The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) held a volunteer event in Barataria, La. today to rescue irises from destruction in a roadside ditch. The volunteers dug up the last 400 irises from Cindy Baucum's land and also collected iris seed pods. Another 200 irises had been dug up two weeks before by other LICI volunteers.
The irises growing in the ditch are the I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris, which is native to the area.
The ditch where the irises were to be removed today is overgrown with other marsh plants that are crowding out the irises.
Cindy Baucum's deceased husband, Joe Baucum, had planted the irises in the ditch many years ago. Over the years he had successfully kept the parish road maintenance crews from spraying the ditch with a herbicide by putting up signs and by going out and meeting with the crews before they got to his stretch of road. Cindy felt like it was just a matter of time before the maintenance crews would spray the ditch or clean it out as they had done in 2013, so she contact LICI about donating the remaining irises that were still surviving.
On the morning of the event to dig up the last of Cindy Baucum's irises the volunteers discovered that the entire five mile length of the highway leading to her home had been sprayed with a herbicide within the last week. Fortunately, the road maintenance crews remember Joe Baucum's wish and they stopped spraying right at his property line.
LICI agreed that the irises they would rescue from Cindy's ditch would be planted at the town of Jean Lafitte Wetlands Trace Boardwalk in Joe Baucum's memory. Joe Baucum led a four man crew of volunteers to build the one mile long boardwalk in 2002. The boardwalk is the location of a multi-year iris restoration project being done by LICI.
Work begins digging up the irises on the hot, humid July morning.
The town of Jean Lafitte held their Seafood Festival in June. The town's Wetlands Trace Boardwalk was a key part of the festival with hundreds of people using it. The mayor is committed to keeping the boardwalk well maintained and is very supportive of LICI's iris restoration project there and is encouraging them to plant more irises. Non-profits and governmental agencies involved in coastal marsh restoration projects held informational booths open as part of the festival.
Volunteers from the local area are shown removing weeds from the irises as they are dug up.
A number of years ago the town of Jean Lafitte held an iris festival and now there is talk of reviving it as a coastal restoration event during the iris bloom along the boardwalk next spring. The idea is that the only "vendor" booths at the festival would be non-profits and governmental agencies involved in restoration projects of Louisiana's swamp and marsh habitat. They would actually be holding open informational booths instead of traditional vendor booths selling things.
The town currently has a 3,500 square foot Wetlands Educational Center under construction at the entrance to its Wetlands Trace boardwalk. The proposed coastal restoration event/iris festival would be centered at this new facility.
The volunteers also removed over one hundred ripe seed pods from the irises they dug up. The seeds pods will be opened at a later day and their seeds broadcast out along town's boardwalk.
LICI's plan will be to use the irises they collected today to increase the number of irises along the boardwalk this fall/winter. They will spend the next few months strengthening up by growing in containers at the LICI iris holding area in New Orleans.
The volunteers dug up the last 400 irises and collected 50 iris seed pods.