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Late October Iris Rescue Refills LICI's Iris Holding Area.

October 27, 2022 New Orleans, La.

Volunteers with the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) completed an iris rescue on Sunday, October 23, 2002 after a call for volunteers went out with only short notice for the event. Six volunteers worked for three hours to remove 1,500 I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris from a low area in front of the property along Hwy 90 near Des Allemands, La.

This is what the site near Des Allemands, La. looked like during LICI's last iris rescue event held there in July 2021.

Photo: The same site is shown as volunteers dig irises on October 23, 2022. The irises had enough time since the cutting to be able to have their new leaf growth poke up through the debris.

LICI has organized four iris rescue events at the property over the last two years. The landowner had been keeping the state highway workers at bay over the years to stop them from spraying the low area with a herbicide, as all of the ditches in the area have been. However, after he put the property up for sale two years ago the owner felt like it was highly unlikely that the new owners would maintain the area the way he has. The spot would then become densely weeded, including young trees trying to grow up in it, which would block the the drainage. He thought it would be only a question of time before the highway department would start spraying it.

LICI's plan was to go back one more time to remove the remaining irises after the first frost kills back competing weeds and plants. This would expose the irises as they are in their winter growth mode. However, LICI received notice from one of their volunteers that live in the area that the iris area had been cut down to the bare ground. Since the land was for sale they assumed it had sold. This would likely eliminate any chance to get back to finish collecting the irises that remained.

Photo: The son of the owner of the property (in blue shirt) stopped by to tell the group hello. "He was pleased that the irises will be used in LICI's iris restoration projects. We have kept him up-date over the last two years on where his family's irises have been planted," Salathe said.

When they contacted the owner to get the new owner's contact info he said that he hadn't sold it yet and he was the one that cut it. "He recommended that we get out as many of the irises as we can, as soon as we can," LICI's president, Gary Salathe said. "We decided this was a very close call on the land being sold and we didn't want to let too much time go by before we got back out there to dig the irises," he added.

Photo: The group took turns cleaning weeds out of the clumps of irises as they came in from the field.

The October 23rd LICI iris rescue was rushed through with a Facebook event notice only being put up four days before with emails also being sent out to their volunteer list at the same time. "Our six volunteers rallied to the call and came out and got the job done!", Salathe said.

Photo: The estimated 1,500 rescued irises are ready to move on to the next step towards being planted out in the swamps and marshes of Southeast Louisiana.

The second part of this iris rescue took place on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 at the LICI iris holding area in New Orleans, La. where a group of out-of-state high school students volunteered to plant the irises into containers. The students were from the Miami area and were in town through an NCSY program. They arrived at the New Orleans International Airport that morning and drove straight out to the lower ninth-ward neighborhood location of the iris holding area. After working 2 1/12 hours on the beautiful and cool morning the group had all of the irises planted. Common Ground Relief, a local non-profit involved in marsh restoration projects, organized the planting for the high school students.

There were enough empty containers available at the iris holding area because some of the irises rescued earlier in the year had recently gone out for planting in LICI's iris restoration projects.

Photo: The irises are shown being planted at the LICI iris holding area on Wednesday, October 26th, by students that were in New Orleans through a program of the NCSY organization.

The irises will grow and strengthen up at LICI's iris holding area until they are ready to be planted out in the marshes and swamps of southeast Louisiana in late December in the group's iris restoration projects.

Photo: The volunteers that dug up the irises during the iris rescue event on October 23rd are shown on the left and volunteers that planted those same irises into containers on October 26th are shown on the right. "One of the things I really enjoy about working on our projects is that the volunteers come from all age groups and backgrounds," Salathe says.



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