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return of the shoals lily...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016
...sounds like a possible title for a short story? It was an informational talk I went to as part of the Spencer Environmental Series. The other one, (which was not the first, meaning I missed out on what ever came before) was the film about long leaf pine habitat. Produced by Rhett Turner, son of Ted, but with lots of big money corporate sponsorship. Meaning he did not use his own plentiful cash to make the movie.

The event tonight was about efforts to reintroduce the native plants to the Chattahoochee River in the area where the experts think it these particular rare plants were prolific before dams were built for energy generation. Two large dams, about a thousand feet in length, spanned the river from Alabama to Georgia. When the two biggest dams were breached, they discovered a number of smaller, wooden dams that had been underwater, built previous to the masonry ones, dating back to the early 1800's. All used to harness the energy of the river for manufacturing: foundries and then textiles.

There has been a white-water rafting area, engineered and designed, laboriously built in the space where the dams had water impounded for over a century. A big tourist draw, and money maker for the man who runs the local outfitter. You can rent equipment: life vests, helmets, inflatable rafts with guides. Who will take visitors down the river through scarey, man-made rapids where most get a good soaking, literally, after paying for the experience: so actually 'soaked' twice!

The two men who were the program were an archeologist: hired by the Corps of Engineers to document the destruction of the two dams, and what they found when the water level lowered. And the man who will be instrumental in planting the lilies in the river bottom in a effort to repopulate the river with native plants. The nursery man reports seeing vast swaths of the gorgeously blooming remarkably fragrant lilies along the Cahaba River  and Catawba Rivers in AL and SC, and believes that the current environment in the Chattahoochee will be very conducive to growing the lily plants in the shoals here.

He took a team out in the creeks where the lily grows, and harvested seeds: they look like large bright green olives. The seeds have been sprouted, and planted in a medium to grow for a couple of years, get established before transplanting into the river, where they will hopefully spread and grow. He reports the lily is very attractive to insects: butterflies, moths and other pollinators. And the insects attract the shoals bass that is a very desirable fish which will hopefully come back as well, now that the water is both active and shallow.

Shoals: rocky places in shallow running water.  So Shoals Lily: growing in those places of shallow fresh water, along the Fall Line where the water is only navigable by a shallow bottomed vessel, like canoes or kayaks. The photos we saw of the lily plants growing in their native habitat, wild in the scenic rivers of the southeast, were absolutely breath-taking. And if they are as aromatic as he said, being out there in the beauty and fragrance is going to be amazing!

I am adding a canoe trip to my bucket list.

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