Every May, a couple of bends in the Cahaba River become one of Alabama’s most beautiful sights to see. That’s when the Hymenocallis coronaria, more commonly called the Cahaba lily, blooms.
The flowers bloom between early May and late June and are found only in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
Perhaps the best spot for viewing in the world, though, is five miles west of West Blocton in rural Bibb County.
“We think it certainly is the most beautiful spot, but we might be a bit partial,” said Matthew Hartzell, Bibb County extension coordinator.
More about the Cahaba lily
The flower is called the Cahaba lily in Alabama but is known as a shoal lily elsewhere. It is an aquatic, perennial flowering plant related to spider lilies. It only grows in shallow and swift water with direct sunlight.
The plant grows to about 3 feet tall and develops from a bulb that lodges in cracks in rocky shoals. It blooms from roughly Mother’s Day to Father’s Day. White fragrant blooms open overnight and last for just one day.
— US Department of the Interior (@Interior) May 7, 2018
Cahaba lilies are being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. There are about 50 populations left, the largest being on the Cahaba River in Alabama, Catawba River in South Carolina and Flint River in Georgia.
There are four separate populations of Cahaba lilies in Alabama, with three being within the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge and one in Buck Creek in the Shelby County city of Helena.
Claim to fame
In May 1990, West Blocton established the annual Cahaba Lily Festival on the third Saturday of May.
The day included trips to see the lilies as well as presentations on them and other nature-related topics. The afternoon includes lunch, music and storytelling.
“The Cahaba Lily Festival is a wonderful event and draws people from all over,” Hartzell said.
This year’s 30th festival was May 18; however, the lilies will still put on their show for several more weeks.
“If someone really wants to go to get up close with the lilies now is the time to go,” Hartzell said, adding the shoals can sometimes get crowded on the weekends. “Especially if people can go down there on a weekday morning, they may be the only person there.”