Between increased development and coastal land loss, the Louisiana iris has become increasingly rare in nature.

One species only exists in nature on a 1,200-acre piece of private property.

A new partnership between Nicholls State University's farm and the Greater New Orleans Iris Society will provide one of the first spaces in the state for a large-scale cultivation effort.

In addition to a few plants received in the spring, Nicholls biology professor Quenton Fontenot said the farm received over 2,000 of one of the five Louisiana iris species this week, the I. giganticaerulea.

Volunteers from the Iris Society rescued the flowers last Wednesday from a site in LaPlace slated for commercial development.

"Now, these irises are going to grow like crazy," Fontenot said. "Their habitat availability is in decline, so we want to preserve as many as we can."

Iris Society volunteer Gary Salathe said those irises are expected to double on their own each year and create a stock that's ready to be used in marsh restoration projects.

Salathe said companies who restore marsh often find it difficult to locate the flower for their projects.

"No one is growing Louisiana irises," he said.

He only knew of one nursery in Lafayette growing the flowers. A few restoration companies have purchased irises from businesses who have them growing naturally on their property.

Eventually, the farm will be able to send species of the Louisiana irises to other nurseries in the state and expand the number of people growing them.

Salathe and fellow volunteer Mark Schexnayder said they were excited for the partnership's potential. 

Though they've started with one species, Salathe said they plan on adding more plots of other species and different colors.

The plants will also be used in beautification efforts to promote the use of native irises -- rather than invasive -- in gardens and landscaping.

Fontenot, Salathe and Schexnayder noted that eventually graduate students will have the chance to research the plant to help solve issues like the best techniques for growing the irises in landscaping and which species are tolerant to a higher salinity for coastal restoration work.

The university and the society will celebrate their partnership during the Louisiana Swamp Stomp Festival in Raceland Nov. 2.

From 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., the society will sell potted irises for $10 each and share information about the different species.

--Staff Writer Halle Parker can be reached at or 857-2204. Follow her on Twitter, @_thehalparker.