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Have you ever seen the Cahaba Lily in bloom? You shouldn’t miss it next time [pictures & video]

THE CAHABA LILY

by

Inez McCollum

I had heard about this mysterious lily for several years. I had seen pictures and read articles with interest. Each year at Festival time, I would have forgotten to mark my calendar and that space would already be taken. A group of which I am a member had a speaker a couple of years ago whose subject was the Cahaba Lily.cahaba lily2


This snow white lily is known as the Shoals Lily in many areas of the US. His report was fascinating. The same person also had a workshop at Aldridge Gardens last Spring–all Cahaba Lily, of course. After attending the workshop, I marked my calendar for the last Saturday in May.

The Festival is in West Blocton each year.  It will take place on May 21, 2016 this year. The lily even has its own website at www.cahabalily.com. I decided to go on Friday that weekend and avoid the crowds. My friend, Jean Butterworth, agreed to go with me.

I was so excited as we headed out 459 toward Tuscaloosa. My grand daughters always had a way of getting me revved up when we would be on our way someplace special–Go Mimi, Go! Go Mimi, Go! I could almost hear them cheering us on as Jean and I drove along. Not being familiar with the area, we used the map from the website to find our way. One of the roads we never did find; but made our way to the lilies anyway. Was this the call of the wild?cahaba lily

The road down to the Cahaba is a one lane, gravel road. Whenever we would meet another car, the vehicle nearest a pull over spot would do just that. I was driving a new car that was taking a beating by the roadside growth. We, however, kept going down that road with determination. Finally we spotted the first lilies! We stopped and took pictures, then proceeded on down the road. The further we went, the more lilies we saw.

After several stops and conversation with other explorers, we made it to the end of the road. We were told we could wade across the shallow part of the river and see much prettier and more plentiful lilies. About that time we saw a man wading across the river. He had already been down to the shoals where those “more plentiful lilies” were. Then, he miss stepped and fell into the water! As this embarrassed man came out of the water, soaked through and through, I recognized him! He was the speaker and workshop director I had met previously! After seeing this incident, there was no way Jean and I would finish that journey!

As we turned to leave, the last thing we saw was that poor man headed toward the woods with dry clothing under his arm. I almost shouted, “Look out for the poison ivy!”

Check www.cahabalily.com for more information about the festival.

 
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About Inez McCollum

Inez McCollum grew up in Etowah County.  Married Mack McCollum, a BI-vocational minister.  Moved to Birmingham to work while he worked and went to Howard College/Samford University.  Inez and Mack had three sons, Jay, Joe and John.  They bought their first home in what is now Hoover.  Inez continues to be active in Shades Mountain Baptist Church and some of the civic organizations in Hoover.  Inez also enjoys reading, travel and spending time with friends.

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45 comments

  1. Richard Jesse

    I saw these in Mulberry River in Center Hill.

  2. Leigh Guild-Ficklen

    My daughter had these growing in her backyard when she moved in. We dug them up and planted them in our yard. Was wondering what they were. They are unique.

  3. Jeff Lambert

    In the mid to late 90s I lived in Birmingham and the Cahaba Lily was a rare find. Many folks had not seen it in bloom my niece and I found some on the banks of the Cahaba river. We potted some and took to Andalusia to my mothers home. Around that time the interest in the Cahaba Lily grew to be quite piqued. Now I see them often.

  4. Charlotte Mooney

    Mark Grier see Alabama has them too!

  5. Lisa Harvey

    They are truly lovely

  6. Bettye Kitchen Hughes

    I was born and raised in Bibb County and have seen these beauties in bloom many times!

  7. Mark Grier

    Yeah…but WE have world’s largest colony at Landsford! Na na na na na! Alabama Cahaba River has more total now since SC rivers are more extensively dammed. Duke (called Southern Power at the time in 1914) planned to build dam at Landsford, concrete survey markers for dam still there. I have heard WWI stopped the dam because the concrete was needed for war effort. Lilies grow in river shoals and dams are always built in shoals because river widens in shallow shoals. You need to kayak through the lilies during peak (mid to late May)…it always makes me happy to be alive!

  8. Mary Suggs

    Some grew near our home in Pike County,

  9. Harold Banks

    Lovely, but the Hatchet Creek Lily and the Tallapoosa River Lily are just as beautiful and even less seen–which might be a good thing.

  10. Jodi Genard

    Saw them and they’re beautiful!

  11. Debbie Young

    Yes, I have seen these bloom. They are absolutely beautiful.

  12. James Davis

    They should be excellent this year if the river is not to high !

  13. Sarah Gail Williamson

    Thank you! I have one of these in my front yard and couldn’t remember the name of it!!

  14. Carol McDonald Henry

    A friend’s wife and mother in law loved to see the lilies so he told them they only bloom every 5 years. They still believe it. LOL

  15. Charlotte Mooney

    Lansford Canal in South Carolina has the largest group of these in the country. They are awesome!

  16. Val Waldron Moreland

    I have some in my little pond!

  17. Dean Atkinson

    Yes it is a beautiful time of year.

  18. Gail Clark

    We have Cahaba lilies lining our “dry” creek bed. They first bloomed the day of our youngest granddaughter’s birth. The next year they bloomed on her first birthday. This year they were a little early. They are a very special and beautiful flower!

  19. Francis Martin

    we have some in our yard that bloom every year !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Claudia Swift

    I lived in an area about 75 miles below New Orleans during the 80s. You could drive down to “the end of the road,” which was literally where the pavement ended and the marsh began—this was the farthest reaches of the Gulf. My first husband would take me down there every spring (it was only about a 20-minute drive), and we’d cut armload after armload of cahaba lilies and dark-blue iris. You did have to watch where you stepped, since the snakes were out in full force, and some of the bigger bull alligators were pretty territorial, but we brought back enough flowers to fill the house and then some. I miss doing that.

  21. Beautiful site!! Thanks from a former Brookwood child.

  22. Randy Rooks

    Also on Hatchet creek in Coosa .

  23. Mary Morgan Klein

    I have been to the Cahaba Lily Festival in West Blocton. Once an endangered species, the Cahaba Lilies are beautiful! The Cahaba Lily Museum in West Blocton is very interesting, and I rode the shuttle from the museum to the river to see the lilies. It was an unforgettable experience!

  24. Lorine Woods

    Steve found one of these on our place shortly after we baught. He brought it to the house and we kept it a while in a bucket of water before it died. They are beautiful.

  25. Tommy May

    I have those in my backyard planted years ago… Can’t post any photos here.

  26. Linda Dunn Gold

    yes my father had these growing.

  27. Do they grow in Florida (Zone 9)?

  28. Christy Mitchell Smith

    Anna, I was hoping we could go this year & see the lilies. We’ll have to go next year, for sure!

  29. Saw these in Hillabee Creek many years ago.

  30. sometimes the rarer than not water lilies are mistaken for other species that come from the same general variety and are all very special in there uniqueness, The lilies have already begun to bloom an if the rains forecast for this next week is not to terribly much, this years display should be a record turnout of blooms this next weekend May 21….

    1. case in point is I have some Peruvian daffodils in my gardens an people who see them often comment, Oh I see You have the Cahaba lilies in your yard. there is quite a difference when You know what You are looking at….

  31. Maxine Hopkins

    I have CAHABA LILY…..

  32. Roy Calhoun

    Me too Max. You gave me one .

  33. Elsie Wages

    I have the Cahaba Lily growing and blooming in my yard. So pretty .

  34. Jennifer Lynn

    Aww! Inez is my cousin! Awesome!

  35. I was born in Bibb County and in my teens I fished the big Cahaba River and we called them Lily shoals.

  36. Jean McCollum

    Tim Mccollum Susan McCollum Miklic Marie Downs McCollum

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