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The Abbeville Red Iris: The rarest species of Louisiana iris is Iris nelsonii. This iris is very special because it is the only plant that is endemic to Louisiana, specifically in Vermilion Parish, which means that it does not naturally grow anywhere else. Iris nelsonii is relatively large, growing 4-6 feet tall. The flowers are red or red-purple (sometimes pale yellow). Its natural range is restricted to a single swamp in Vermilion Parish, which is privately owned. It has been introduced to Palmetto Island State Park to make it viewable to the public. For its habitat it prefers cypress-tupelo gum swamps with fluctuating water levels.
Planting Palmetto: You can see the Abbeville Red Iris in it's native habitat. On October 18th, 2011, Friends of Palmetto Island joined Palmetto Island State Park, Wildlife and Fisheries and Office of State Park’s staff to plant 100 rhizomes of native Abbeville Red Iris back within the park for everyone to enjoy. Establishing the Abbeville Red Iris in the park was a cooperative effort through a partnership between LA Office of State Parks and LA Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries. Wildlife and Fisheries provided the funding and Office of State Parks provided the location. In 2023, LA State Parks gave Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) permission to maintain and enhance the exhibit. Read more about this partnership here.
Friends of Palmetto Island prints a color brochure about the Abbeville Red for Palmetto Island State Park. Stop by the park's entrance station or nature center to get a copy.
A great article with pictures of the Louisiana irises that the scientific community identifies as the parents of the Abbeville Red.
Each spring around the iris bloom people ask us where they can purchase a few Abbeville Red Iris. Sense publishing the partnership we've begun getting new requests to purchase Abbeville Red Iris. Friends of Palmetto, Palmetto Island State Park and Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative DO NOT sell the iris. However, we have been informed that iris organizations are working to propagate the Abbeville Reds to create a verified supply for online Louisiana iris nurseries. We can't recommend anyone at this time, but we will share contact information as soon as it becomes available.