History of SLI

A lousiana iris judges training session in 2011

The Society for Louisiana Irises can trace its history back to 1941, when a small group of dedicated South Louisiana growers and collectors came together with the intention of preserving and promoting interest in this beautiful native plant.  One of their main objectives was to bring attention to these beautiful flowers. 

 Although the real workers in the Society were few during the early years, an ambitious course was set. Annual meetings...collecting trips to the swamps, and elaborately staged shows were held. As these meetings continued, many innovations were started, such as a the arrangement with AIS for a top award for Louisiana irises. A milestone was reached in 1993 when the Society for Louisiana Irises became a Cooperating Society of the American Iris Society. In 2012 The Society for Louisiana Irises became a section of the American Iris Society. As a section of the AIS, SLI continues to be an independant organization that falls under the umbrella of AIS with IRS nonprofit status.

Marie Caillet in her Texas garden


by Marie Caillet
from the Society for Louisiana Irises Bulletin #143, March 1991

When I was elected to Secretary-Treasurer of the Society in 1946, I started a file of items about our meetings and our members. This grew to include newspaper clippings that were hard to file and thus the beginning of the scrap book. Now, after 45 years of 'collecting and pasting', there are 5 books with a total of about 250 pages and somewhere between 500 and 1,000 items! After my terms as secretary the books became a record of my own iris activities, but continued to chronicle the activities of the Society of Louisiana Irises.

Mrs. B. S. Nelson, who was an early collector and grower in the New Orleans area, supplied some clippings from the days of Dr. Small and about the attempt in 1931 to start a Louisiana iris society. It was organized, but did not last; however, her clippings have added to the history we have of Louisiana irises. Thus these scrap books cover a period of 60 years.

Marie Caillet and Tom Dillard load boxes of SLI archives she saved through the years.  The boxes were delivered to Dr Bruce Turner at the UofL at Lafayette, LA

I was interested in the article by Dr. Bruce Turner about our Louisiana iris archives at the University in Lafayette (Winter 2002 issue) . My 'collection' will eventually go there. It also brought back wonderful memories of the early years of the Society. The show pictured and labeled 1948 had to be before 1946. Not only do I remember this, but it can be found in Scrapbook Number 1. We outgrew our little displays in the old two story house next to the coliseum and moved to the old campus student center in 1946. Bruce Turner could better tell you why archives are important, but I somehow must have known this over 60 years ago! Some of what I have for the archives will duplicate what others have sent, but much will be different. I hope duplicate material will be offered to the American Iris Society Library. I shall list a few of the items I have collected and saved since 1941:

Bruce Turner, the Head of Archives and Special Collections of the Edith Garland Dupre' Library, UofLA at Lafayette, LA

In 1998, the Society for Louisiana Irises named the Southwestern Archives and Manuscripts Collection, or SAMC, at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette as the official repository for the records of the organization. The Archives now contain a number of collections related to Louisiana irises that reflect the work of important figures in the development of the Society.