Monday, May 17, 2021

The Pay-Off for a Year’s Work; Blooming Wild, Native Louisiana Irises Accessible to the Public.

By Gary Salathe

In my last World of Irises posting I wrote about the projects that the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) had completed for the 2020 - 2021 fall and winter Louisiana iris planting season.  By hook and crook and bobbing and weaving we somehow pieced together enough volunteers during this year of COVID19 to rescue and plant 8,000 native Louisiana irises of the I. giganticaerulea species. 

We were able to get enough donations to build an iris holding area to plant the irises we rescued into containers.  The irises grew there for a few months until they strengthened up enough to be planted back out into the swamps during the fall and winter planting season.

The purpose of the program was to get wild native irises that were in harm’s way relocated to where the public could safely see them growing and blooming.  The ideal locations to accomplish this are along the raised swamp boardwalks in area refuges and nature preserves.  The boardwalks allow the public to safely experience Louisiana's swamps and their unique plants and animals.

We planted the last irises only six weeks before the bloom would typically have begun because we were stretched to the limit in time and available volunteers to get the job done.  After the first of the year we dug up the irises from their containers in clumps with most of the soil still attached instead of trying to plant individual rhizomes.  We hoped that by doing this the irises would not realize that they had been transplanted and would bloom a few weeks later.  Luckily, a severe late winter cold snap helped by slowing everything down so even these late planted irises had a chance to settle in.  Most ended up blooming once the delayed bloom finally began.

 Photo:  Volunteers planting irises during 

a LICI project at the US Fish & Wildlife 

Service's Bayou Sauvage National 

Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans, La. 

on November 22, 2020.


Many of us involved in this huge effort barely had enough time to take a break before we had to hit the road to see the irises blooming that we had planted.   Some of us started rescuing and planting wild irises during the first projects completed three years ago.  It was very satisfying not only seeing the irises that we planted this year bloom, but also seeing how the irises have multiplied that we planted in previous years.

Sadly, in a couple of locations the hurricanes that the area experienced in 2020 knocked back the irises that we planted.  They weren't knocked-out completely, but they are down for the count, for sure.  We have high hopes that they will recover if they can catch a break from having more storms come in this hurricane season.

We switched hats from laborers planting irises in the muck to social media public relations semi-professionals and started phase two of our program as soon as the irises started blooming.  Our PR campaign was very successful in letting the public know where the irises could be found blooming.  We also received a lot of help from the marketing professionals on the staffs of the refuges and towns where we had planted irises. 

We saw first-hand and received many reports from the field as the iris bloom was progressing that there were more people out at the swamp boardwalks than in previous years.  One interesting piece of information that came in was that there were many more families with children, teens or young adults going out to the boardwalks this year to see and experience Louisiana’s swamps with its wildlife and fauna.  We’d like to think our news-releases and social media postings about the safety of the boardwalks had something to do with that.  

Photo:  This picture was sent to us by a 

these children's mother as they explore the

US Fish & Wildlife Service's Bayou Teche 

National Wildlife refuge boardwalk. 

 

All of this made the hard work done by our volunteers over the last year very worthwhile and gratifying.  We ran across many of the them out at the boardwalks enjoying the results of their labor.    

We are hopeful that our efforts helped raise awareness with the public of this important native plant and the threatened habitat they live in.  The Louisiana iris has a cultural and historical presence in our lives down here.  We believe its important that everyone can enjoy the show they put on in the wild each bloom season.  As we say, not everyone can get out and wade through the swamps while swatting away snakes and alligators to see this wonderful, rare native plant, so why not bring the irises to some of their habitat that is safe for the public to see them?

Anyway, for the rest of this posting I’m just going to let the pictures tell the story of the blooming I. giganticaerulea Louisiana irises at our projects during this past month.

Enjoy!

 

US Fish and Wildlife Service Big Branch 

National Wildlife Refuge's 

Boy Scout  Road boardwalk.   

Lacombe, La.

 

US Fish and Wildlife Service Big Branch 

National Wildlife Refuge's 

Boy Scout  Road boardwalk.   

Lacombe, La.

 

Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries' Joyce 

Wildlife Management Area boardwalk.

Ponchatoula, La.

 

 Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries' Joyce 

Wildlife Management Area boardwalk.

Ponchatoula, La.

(Photo by Henry Cancienne)

 

Northlake Nature Center boardwalk 

and trail.  Mandeville, La. 

 

   
  
Northlake Nature Center boardwalk 

and trail.  Mandeville, La.

 

 
US Fish & Wildlife Service Bayou 
Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge 
boardwalk.   New Orleans, La.
 
(Photo by  Paul Christiansen)

 
US Fish & Wildlife Service Bayou 
Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge 
boardwalk.  New Orleans, La.
 
(Photo by Henry Cancienne)

 

 
Cajun Coast Visitor's Center.
Morgan City, La.
 
(Photo by Henry Cancienne)
 
 

Cajun Coast Visitor's Center.
Morgan City, La.
 
(Photo by Henry Cancienne)
 
 
 
Town of Lockport, La Wetlands 
Boardwalk.  (Photo by Mike Glaspell) 
 

 
Town of Lockport, La Wetlands 
Boardwalk.  (Photo by Mike Glaspell)
 
 

Nature Conservancy's Griletta Tract trail 

and boardwalk in Grand Isle, La.   

(Photo by  Paul Christiansen)

 

Nature Conservancy's Griletta Tract trail 

and boardwalk in Grand Isle, La.   

(Photo by  Paul Christiansen)

 

Town of Jean Lafitte's Wetland's 

Trace boardwalk.

 (Photo by Henry Cancienne)

 

Town of Jean Lafitte's Wetland's 

Trace boardwalk.

 (Photo by Henry Cancienne)

 


US Fish & Wildlife Service Mandalay 

National Wildlife Refuge trail 

and boardwalk.   Houma, La.

 

US Fish & Wildlife Service Mandalay 

National Wildlife Refuge trail 

and boardwalk.   Houma, La.

 

 Fontainebleau State Park.   

Mandeville, La.


Fontainebleau State Park.   

Mandeville, La.

 

We are starting up our iris rescue projects for 2021 this month.  We welcome any size donation to help with the overhead expenses that we incur with maintaining our iris holding area and putting on volunteer events.  We are an all-volunteer run Louisiana registered non-profit that aims to have a big impact at a small cost.  

We have a new PayPal account that will allow you to make a donation to us even if you do not have a Paypal account.  A credit card will work.  Any help that you can give will be greatly appreciated.  If you would like to make a donation you can do so by clicking here:  Donation   Thank you so much!

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative website can be found here: https://www.licisaveirises.com/

Recent articles about our work can be found here: https://www.licisaveirises.com/news

Our Facebook page can be found here:  https://www.facebook.com/licisaveirises

Our email address is: licisaveirises@gmail.com

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