The Cahaba lily, also known as a “shoals lily” or “rocky shoals spider lily,” can only be found in a handful of waterways throughout South Carolina, Georgia, and central Alabama.

By Meghn Overdeep
May 14, 2019
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There are few experiences more distinctly Southern than witnessing a Cahaba lily in bloom.

This aquatic stunner, which requires a swift current and direct sunlight to flourish, only grows in central Alabama rivers—the Cahaba in particular—and in a handful of waterways throughout South Carolina and Georgia. Sadly, the Cahaba lily is under consideration for federal protection due to whole populations having been wiped out by dams.

Also known as a “shoals lily” or “shoals spider lily,” this beautiful plant is a type of spider lily belonging to the amaryllis family. It can be identified by its distinct three-inch-wide white flowers and petals that open to resemble a star. Its pungent scent lingers somewhere between sweet and spicy.

Cahaba lilies typically bloom between early May and late June. Adding to their mystique, the flowers tend to open in the evening, and last only a single day before withering. Luckily, not all the flowers bloom at once.

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Budding botanists will be thrilled to learn that there are a variety of opportunities throughout the South to witness the blooms in all their glory.

The annual Cahaba Lily Festival in West Blocton, Alabama, is scheduled to take place on May 18.  The day includes a free program of nature lectures and a shuttle service to the Cahaba River to observe the plants from shore. In northeast Georgia, the Broad River Watershed Association is hosting hikes to see the plants in addition to a nine-mile Shoal Lily Float on May 18. And finally, in South Carolina, Landsford Canal State Park’s Lilyfest, the chance to walk the one-and-a-half-mile Canal Trail for a glimpse of the blossoming lilies in the Catawba River, is planned for May 19.

If you do get the chance to see the Cahaba lily this weekend, let us know! Share your photos on social media along with the hashtag #SLTravels. 

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