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LICI Holds Iris Planting Event at its Pelican Park Project

November 20, 2022 Mandeville, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) held a Louisiana iris planting event at the Pelican Park Recreation District #1 located near Mandeville, LA. on November 19th. This was the second planting event LICI held there since the project began in late 2021. Even though it was a cold, damp morning with rain threatening, over 30 volunteers came out to plant the estimated 800 irises.

Pelican Park is a taxpayer-supported park near Fontainebleau State Park and the Northlake Nature Center. It is 550 acres in size and consists of 32 athletic fields, a 3-court gym, a 4-court gym, the 46,000 square foot multi-purpose Castine Center, paved roads, a walking trail, dog park, batting skate park, sand volleyball courts, 18 hole disc golf course, and parking for over 1,700 vehicles.

LICI was contacted in August of 2021 by Louisette Scott, Environmental Educator for Pelican Park, about finding locations on their property to plant Louisiana irises. Part of Louisette's responsibilities is to manage and increase the number of native plants growing within the park. An agreement was quickly reached that allowed LICI to use a low detention area and a nearby long linear detention area as the location for the irises to be planted.

The iris planting site is near the park's Gold and Silver Complexes parking lots within a portion of the disc golf course.

LICI currently has six locations in public places, including Pelican Park, where they plant rescued irises as a place for them to multiply on their own without any maintenance being needed. The landowners in each of the six locations have agreed to allow LICI access to the irises to thin them out in future years to use on other iris restoration projects. "This gets the irises out of harm's way where they are currently growing in locations where they are threatened with destruction and "parks" them in a protected location where we can have future access to them. Its a win/win deal for all involved, is the way we see it", says Gary Salathe, a board of directors member of LICI and the lead for them on the Pelican Park project.

The six locations are in addition to LICI's usual public planting sites at area wildlife refuges, and nature preserves where they plant the irises in their natural habitat.

The linear detention area is shown next to the Silver Complex parking area before the grass and weeds were cut in early September.

The blooming irises will be in view to the public, which furthers LICI's goal of raising awareness of this native Louisiana plant. "Over 1 million visitors per year use the park. On any given weekend day there could be as many as 12,000 people attending various organized sporting events", Executive Director of the park, Margie Lewis says.

Some irises were planted as a test in the long detention area at Pelican Park in January 2022. To everyone's surprise, many of them bloomed just three months later, as shown in the photo.

The plan was for the park's maintenance crews to cut the grass twice yearly in the detention areas while the irises are dormant from July to early September. The plan worked well at the long detention area this summer, but the crews were too concerned about hurting the irises in the main detention area, so it was not cut. "That was unfortunate because we ended up having to cut it with hand-held weed-eaters with bush blades just before our November planting event", LICI's Gary Salathe says. He added that he now has a direct line of communication with the grounds crew manager and they'll work together on the cutting schedule next year.

Volunteers from LICI cut the grass in the main planting area using a weed-eater with a brush blade a week before the November 19th iris planting.

The I. giganticaerulea species iris from the LICI iris rescue program was used for the planting on November 19th at Pelican Park.

The irises planted during the November 19th event came from LICI's iris rescue program. Many of the irises were rescued last March and have been growing at LICI's iris holding area in New Orleans to strengthen up for transplanting this autumn.

Volunteers begin to arrive for the iris planting on November 19th.

Although there were many positive responses to the Facebook event posting, it was uncertain how many people would actually come out to help. The weather forecast called for a cold drizzly rain to begin at noon, but the radar showed that the rain could arrive much earlier. The event was scheduled for 9 AM until noon.

Volunteers begin planting the trailer full of irises at the main planting site in the larger detention area.

Everyone was pleasantly surprised when over 30 volunteers showed up ready to work. The group included members of multiple Boy Scout Troops, one member of a Girl Scout Troop, and several students from Southeastern University. Members of the St. Tammany Master Gardeners Association helped out as did some of LICI's volunteers, along with members of the public.

The volunteers were from all age groups.

Everyone worked hard and finished up a little early, which worked out well because it started to drizzle just as everyone was leaving.

LICI's Salathe says, "We are very appreciative of all of the hard work that went into making this iris planting possible, from the volunteers that rescued the irises, the volunteers that maintained the irises over the last eight months, and to the volunteers on the 19th that got them all planted."



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