Spring is in the air and everything is coming to full bloom at Lake Martin! But something particularly magical happens between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day every year. The famous “Cahaba Lily” begins to make its long-awaited appearance, with its spider-like petals stretching out and putting on a spectacular show for all to see.
To add to their unique beauty, these lilies are also incredibly rare, attracting people from far and wide just to catch a glimpse of them on display.
Luckily, right here in our backyard is the Tallapoosa River – one of very few homes to these majestic flowers. Here is everything you need to know about the Cahaba Lily, as well as our recommendations on how to catch them for yourself before they disappear for yet another year!
What Makes the Cahaba Lily So Unique
So just why is the Cahaba Lily so unique? For starters, the Cahaba Lily is an aquatic flower – meaning it only grows in running water. But not just any running water. It needs to be swift-flowing water over rocks as well as an area with lots of sunshine. Outside of very rare circumstances, the vast majority of the Cahaba Lily population only grows in three Southern states, with the best and largest populations located in Alabama.
What also attracts people to the flower are its strange, spider-like petals. The Latin name for a Cahaba Lily is “Hymenocallis Coronaria”, meaning “beautiful crown-like membrane.” This is referencing the shape of the flower, often also described as a Spider Lily.
To add to their mystique, the Cahaba Lily itself is almost like a Cinderella story. Each bloom on a lily opens up for only one night a year. After a 24-hour period, the flower closes back up and wilts away, leaving us with only its leaves and stem again until next year.
Though the bulbs and the stems of the plant are impressively resilient to the harsh environments of a river, the flower itself is very delicate. To add to its already diminishing habitat options, there are only about 50 populations left – placing the Cahaba Lily under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
How to See the Cahaba Lilies
We are incredibly lucky to call Lake Martin a home for these beautiful lilies! Cahaba Lilies grow within the flowing waters of the Tallapoosa River, which also happens to be a popular kayaking spot in the area – particularly the section between Horseshoe Bend and Jaybird Landing. You can read all about kayaking this section of the Tallapoosa River here.
Because of the timing of the Cahaba Lilies in full bloom, this would be a great trip to plan as a unique Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift to your parents. And the good news is, you don’t have to invest in your own kayaks to go see them. There are actually some great tour groups and local rental companies that will be happy to help you out!
Tallapoosa Wilds rents kayaks and canoes and will deliver them to the river. Along with your kayak or canoe, your rental also includes a life jacket, paddles, and a shuttle service from Jaybird Landing to the Horseshoe Bend drop in point. Venture out on your own, or book a guided tour.
Learn more about Tallapoosa Wilds here.
The Adventure Center is located in an authentic, rustic cabin next to the Town Green at Russell Crossroads, and they rent canoes and kayaks that you can take to the river. You can also meet with a Russell Lands adventure outfitter to learn more about the area and the adventures that await you.
Learn more about the Adventure Center at Russell Crossroads here.
Float Alabama is a paddle sports store that specializes in selling and renting inflatable kayaks, paddle boards, and rafts. The perk of renting an inflatable kayak is most obviously the space you save. These can be rolled up and taken anywhere – and are yours for an entire 24-hour period.
Learn more about Float Alabama here.
The Best Time to See the Cahaba Lilies on the Tallapoosa River
We are so lucky to have these beautiful and rare Cahaba Lilies are right here in our backyard. But remember – the best time to catch the Cahaba Lilies in bloom is from mid-May to mid-June. Be sure to plan your trip now, before they disappear for yet another year!