We arrived at the boat ramp well before sunrise. Our goal on this late May morning was to canoe the rocky shoals of the Catawba River to observe and experience the beautiful, white-flowered blooms of the Rocky Shoals Spider Lily. After launching, the biggest task was to maneuver our canoe around the river’s rocky shoals with a water depth of no more than 18 inches. Numerous times we exited the canoe to walk around large boulders as we slowly made our way through. However, our efforts were worth the delights ahead — the largest concentration of the six-spiked lily stretching as far as the eye could see.
Botanically known as the Hymenocallis coronaria, the existence of the Rocky Shoals Spider Lily is indeed noteworthy. Somehow, the bulb of the lily settles itself between cracks in the rocks in the shoals, despite swift waters rushing above it. Given a constant supply of swift water, rocky shoals, and direct sunlight, this wildflower will flourish. When rivers are dammed and no longer have the swift current, this lily will not appear.
The lily only grows in Alabama, Georgia, and both Carolinas. The largest concentration of Rocky Shoals Spider Lily in South Carolina is located at Landsford Canal State Park in Chester County and is second only to the Cahaba River in Alabama in the entire the United States.
Botanist William Bartram discovered the wildflower centuries ago along the Savannah River near Augusta. You can discover it too, even in Columbia, along the Broad and Saluda River conjunction. Riverbanks Zoo has planted a concentration of flowers along the shoals, and each year the shoals grow with an ever-increasing floral display. The best times for experiencing the flowers are in late May to mid-June. Don’t tarry — each flowerhead only blooms one day, but the memory of its unique beauty will last a lifetime.