It’s Earth Month, and we’re highlighting the incredible work our team members are doing to protect and preserve our local habitats here in Louisiana. Mark Schexnayder is a Senior Biologist at Batture LLC and serves as the president of the Society for Louisiana Irises and a board member of the Greater New Orleans Iris Society. Read on to learn more about these organizations and the habitat conservation work that they do, and where you can go to see some beautiful Louisiana irises.
WHAT ARE THESE ORGANIZATIONS?
The Society for Louisiana Irises is a non-profit educational organization with a mission of promoting the use of Louisiana irises as a gardening resource, including education and conservation of the species. The organization aims to initiate conservation actions that can help reverse the habitat loss trends that have been happening over the last 100 years or so and to preserve the collected species and variants.
The Greater New Orleans Iris Society exists to exchange information on the culture and breeding of native Louisiana irises, to make the public more aware of Louisiana’s irises, to provide members with access to greater variants of irises to grow in their own gardens, and to preserve the native forms of Louisiana irises and their place in the environment.
Last year, the organization provided thousands of plants to nonprofits and WorkForce Development Programs for public rain gardens and bioswales from a small island nursery tucked deep in New Orleans City Park. Both the Greater New Orleans Iris Society and the Society for Louisiana Irises provide plants for the Pelican Greenhouse and the City Park Sculpture and Botanical Gardens.
PROTECTING LOCAL IRISES IS CONSERVATION WORK
Mark’s passion for preserving local ecosystems and mitigating the effects of coastal land loss drove him to join the Society for Louisiana Irises in the late 1980’s, and has been involved ever since.
And the work of protecting and preserving irises has larger positive ripple effects on our environment overall: “I believe we can inspire people to get behind conservation and restoration by connecting the flowers’ health to the overall habitat sustainability. Doing work to protect local irises and their habitat also protects other birds, bees, plants, and wildlife that thrive there,” Mark says.
Here at Batture LLC, we have a deep commitment to protecting our local environment. Our team has done community service days in City Park where we have helped weed iris beds, cleaned and restored shorelines, and helped with building projects on Nursery Island. We also proudly provide Pro Bono support for some of the development programs and volunteer groups that help to maintain the iris habitats.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE IRIS ORGANIZATIONS?
In 2023, the Society for Louisiana Irises is planning community outreach and building a partnership with UL Lafayette, NGOs, and Federal and State Agencies to develop projects and land protection for the remaining 1,000 acres of habitat occupied by Iris nelsonii (the native species of Louisiana irises) in the wild. They are also working with the Palmetto Island State Park Staff and the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative to refurbish and expand boardwalk plantings.
HOW CAN I SEE LOUISIANA IRISES AND GET INVOLVED?
There are two public gardens in New Orleans with masses of Louisiana irises that people can enjoy: the Sculpture Garden in New Orleans City Park, and Longue Vue Gardens. GNOIS opens the Nursery for the bloom season, and both GNOIS and SLI host showings at private residences.
You can get involved and learn more about how to enjoy the irises by visiting the organizations’ websites. You’ll find that Louisiana irises are adaptable flowers, reflective of the culture that Louisiana embodies.
To find out more about Earth Month and spread the love to plants of all kinds, you can check out the official Earth Day website.
DID YOU KNOW THIS IRIS TRIVIA?
- Louisiana iris is a taxonomic group of five iris species native to Louisiana and surrounding regions. These species are Iris fulva, Iris hexagona, Iris brevicaulis, Iris giganticaerulea, and Iris nelsonii.
- Habitat: Swampy, boggy areas.
- Hummingbirds, butterflies and insects attracted to flowers rich with nectar are likely to show up near Louisiana irises.