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Wild Iris of Bayou Teche

Giant wild iris is the state wildflower of Louisiana. Although fleur-de-lis means “lily flower,” the symbol was modeled after an iris.

How were my husband and I to know how important wild iris would be to us in the spring of 2012?

Our daughter was marrying the son of Louisiana natives, so, to get to know the son-in-law better, we wanted to know the son-in-law’s family. His parents graciously invited us to visit Louisiana along with the happy couple, of course. It was March, the crawfish harvest had begun, and a big family crawfish boil was planned at a relative’s home. My husband and I could not resist going down a day early, however, to explore the area just a bit. We flew to New Orleans, rented a car, and headed west on, not I-10, but Hwy 90, toward Lafayette (the “Lafay” part pronounced by locals as “Laugh-y”).

Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge, our first stop, was near the city of Franklin in St. Mary Parish. We visited the Garden City Unit of the refuge and walked the Garden City Levee Foot Trail.

Bayou Teche is largely a cypress-tupelo swamp, home of the Louisiana black bear and wild iris.

Stretched across this cypress-tupelo swamp was a boardwalk where we first saw the giant blue iris (Iris giganticaerulea) blooming all around us. These giant blue iris flowers were deep blue-violet with yellow throats accented with white splashes. These irises are wild, exquisite, and the state wildflower of Louisiana.

There are other wild irises in Louisiana and the American Iris Society recognizes the Louisiana irises as a special group called “Louisianas” ( Many cultivated iris varieties have come from the wild ones.

Patches of blue give you a clue you are in giant wild iris territory.

Benny Trahan who lives in Slidell, Louisiana wrote an article for Fleur de Lis, the official magazine of the Society for Louisiana Irises, which explains more about the wild iris of Louisiana.

Benny says, “I get excited when just thinking of my many visits to the swamps and marshes of south Louisiana in search of the fantastic species called the Louisiana iris. The gorgeous blues of I. giganticaerulea are amazing. It’s no wonder Louisiana has made it the state wildflower. These wildflowers of the South are a treasure like no other.”

If you are in southern Louisiana and you are a wildflower lover, this is worth a side trip. You will find the irises blooming in March at Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge.

Why not go eat some cake after you see the iris? This one is gone, but there’s lots more cake around. The aforementioned couple were married last July and are now expecting their own little wild iris in October!

The prenuptial cake!


©Rita Venable 2013


Many thanks to Benny Trahan and Patrick O”Connor of Zydeco Irises for editing this blog. Benny Trahan’s article appeared in the winter 2008 issue of  Fleurs de Lis. You can read it here:



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