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Rare White Spider Lilies: Hymenocallis coronaria


This weekend we had the opportunity to visit a local property that is blessed with the very rare Hymenocallis coronaria. Most folks around here call them Shoal Spider Lilies, because they are growing in Flat Shoals Creek. In Alabama this plant is called Cahaba Lilies, named for the Cahaba River where they are growing. There are also some small colonies found growing in the Chattahoochee, Coosa, and Tallapoosa Rivers.


These lilies are a threatened native plant, found growing only in a few places in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. 
Flat Shoals Lilies, as I call them, bloom only once a year. The blooms last 2 or 3 weeks, depending on the weather. This year, they bloomed a little later than normal because our winter was so reluctant to leave.




Hymenocallis coronaria is in the amaryllis family of plants. Large white blooms about 3 inches wide are quite showy and held above tall stems. Foliage is strappy, like a lily.

The Shoal Lilies grow in full sun in the fast-moving water of rivers and large creeks.



The flowers attract a variety of pollinators but are especially enjoyed by the Pipevine Swallowtail.


As with most threatened and endangered species, these lilies are threatened because of us people. The damming of rivers has caused the greatest threat, but pollution of the rivers caused by development, logging, and mining as well as poaching have also played a part in the reduction of Shoal Lily populations. Poaching is when an individual takes a plant or animal and sells it or uses it to his own advantage without consideration for the actual animal or plant itself. When a plant is listed on the threatened or endangered list, one should not dig it to take to his own garden or sell to others. This practice is wrong, and I believe it is punishable by law.

Cherokee Rose: Georgia's State Flower


Probably because the Cherokee Rose is Georgia's State Flower, I am often asked if we grow it. Most have been disappointed or even shocked when I told them that we did not. 

Since it is Georgia's State Flower, one would assume the Cherokee Rose is native to Georgia, but this plant originally came from China. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Although our specialty is plants that are native to these parts, we grow many plants that are native to Asia. However, we do have to be careful with Asian plants, since many can be very invasive here (kudzu, honeysuckle, and wisteria), but that's a separate post.

If the Cherokee Rose is not native to this state, you might be wondering how in the world it became Georgia's State Flower. And furthermore, how did it come to be called the "Cherokee Rose"? There is an interesting legend behind that.

One of our nation's earliest nurserymen, Thomas Affleck, introduced Rosa laeveigata and sold it to landowners all over the South in the 1800's. Since that time, Rosa laeveigata has naturalized all over the state of Georgia. One of the saddest things in history to me is the removal of Cherokee families from their land in Georgia when they were forced to march on foot all the way to Oklahoma. This tragic relocation of the Cherokee became known as the "Trail of Tears." According to the legend, every time a tear hit the ground, a rose grew in its place. That rose was Rosa laeveigata, later to be called the Cherokee Rose.

In 1916, the Cherokee Rose was designated as the State Flower of Georgia with the support of the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs. Often confused with Rosa bracteata, the McCartney Rose, the Cherokee Rose blooms in Spring and is not invasive.

The Cherokee Rose is a vigorous climbing rose with ferocious thorns, but can be pruned and grown as a hedge. Large white flowers with yellow centers cover the plant in March or April.

Having learned this interesting piece of history, we might decide to produce this beautiful rose after all. If for no other reason than to remind us of an important event in history that should never have happened. Nowadays it seems everyone has something to grumble about. Oh, "Woe is me," they seem to be saying. Well, imagine if you had been a Cherokee, back in 1838.

Look for us to have Rosa laeveigata in the future. Hopefully in the mean time, I can learn to spell it.

Bumble Bees are in Trouble Too!

We often hear about the decline of the honeybee due to overuse of pesticides, herbicides, loss of habitat, and Colony Collapse Disorder (a general term used to express the decline of the honeybee population due to bees leaving the hive to die for reasons we do not know.) But did you know our native bumblebees are in trouble too? Honeybees are not the only pollinator in trouble. Our native bumblebees have faced a sharp decline all across the United States. The loss of bumblebees would severely affect our nation's ecosystem, not to mention our farming system and our food supply.


Bumblebees love our Native Buttonbush,
Cephalanthus occidentalis
As a child I would sit on the back door step and watch bumblebees for an hour or more. The beautiful buzzing little bees just fascinated me. I think the reason there were so many bees there is because it was the only spot in the yard where lots of clover and other wildflowers grew. The bees loved it, and so did I. I enjoyed watching them, but I did not know then how important they are.

Bumblebees are more important to our environment than the non-native honeybees. Bumblebees pollinate native plants and wildflowers that produce seeds for birds and other wildlife. Bumblebees are the most important pollinators for many of the crops we depend on like blueberries and tomatoes. I just learned that farmers actually depend on bumblebees to pollinate crops grown in a greenhouse like peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes. Wow! That is fascinating.

According to the Xerces Society, several species of the North American Bumblebee are on the verge of extinction. The main cause of bumblebee decline is the overuse of pesticides which kill not only the bad insects but also pollinators like the bumblebee.

You might be thinking, "Yes, but what can I do about it?"

Well, first of all, don't use pesticides. Let nature take its course. If you don't spray pesticides on your grass, flowering plants, and shrubs, birds and good bugs like Lady Bugs will take care of the problem naturally.

Secondly, plant flowers. Any kind of flowers. Bumblebees are not picky--they will visit any and every flower available to them. So just plant what you like. Try to have flowers available for them in every season. Here in the mild climate of Georgia, bumblebees are out from late winter to late fall. I've even seen them buzzing around on a warm day in January when our Mahonia was in full bloom.

There might not be much you can do about some some problems occurring in our environment, but this is one area where your actions can definitely make an impact.

If you are interested in trying to identify which kind of bumblebee you are seeing in your garden, take a look at BumbleBee.Org.