April Showers were not notified it is now May. The May Flowers, however, have not disappointed. The undeniable fragrance of honeysuckle triggers memories of backyard adventures and make believe. The frail looking primroses and buttercups somehow survive the careless drivers and color the commute home for the more patient ones who glance roadside.
May is also the month that the Cahaba Lily blooms. My connection to this particular flower originates with my studies of the river and watershed that share its name. My class of biology majors wrote our senior theses on the Cahaba River. Fortunately, I was assigned the topic of the Cahaba River Society, the non profit organization working to restore and protect the biodiversity of the Cahaba River watershed. The topic fit me well since my interests were leaning more toward social science and history than hard science at the time.
The whole process felt more like a treasure hunt than a tedious paper. I rummaged through a closet at the Cahaba River Society to collect old issues of their newsletters. I borrowed materials from a 6th grade science teacher. I searched box after box of old photographs to find the few of a canoe trip years before. And before I knew it, my dorm room resembled that closet – stacks of all the information I could get my hands on. (I am very thankful to my roommate who tolerated it all so patiently.)
The more I learned about the Cahaba River, the more I felt the need to share. I was practically preaching to anyone who would listen that “we basically have the Amazon in our backyard and too few know or care.” Of course, it’s not the Amazon, but the Cahaba River is the longest free-flowing river in Alabama and contributes mightily to the fact that the state is the most aquatically biodiverse in the Continental US. The river definitely deserves to be protected and appreciated.
Appreciating it is easy when you learn the science, and then, let the science accentuate the beauty. The beauty is perhaps most easily observed on a visit to see the lilies in bloom. So whether you attend the Cahaba Lily Festival Saturday May 30th or follow the driving directions on a quiet morning before the close of June, be prepared to have your breath taken.
A To Do Tip: Wear clothing you don’t mind getting wet and shoes that have some grip on the sole. Take your camera at your own risk, and I strongly suggest a waterproof bag. I learned this the hard way, but the pictures were totally worth it.
If you can’t make it to see the lilies with your own eyes, consider the photography of Beth Maynor Young, an expert at capturing the environment.