A rare flower is in bloom now in Columbia, and the best way to see it is by kayak or canoe.
Which is no problem, since Adventure Carolina and Get Your Gear On both offer spider lily tours to see these delicate flowers that grow among the rocks in the Congaree and Broad rivers.
“It locks itself between the rocks,” said Kevin Geddings of Adventure Carolina. “It’s unique.”
The rocky shoals spider lilies are rare and, unfortunately, Geddings said, getting rarer.
“That’s why we say, ‘Just look, don’t touch and don’t pick,’ ” he said.
Spider lilies are a plant of “federal concern,” said Bert Pittman, a botanist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. That means federal agencies recognize the rarity of the flower and are interested in its conservation.
Paddlers on the tours in Columbia will have the opportunity to photograph the flowers.
“We walk around an island where you can get close and take pictures,” Geddings said.
It’s definitely worth taking a trip to see them, said Logan Ross of Get Your Gear On, who offers tours by appointment. “It’s something you don’t get to see very often.”
“It has a huge tubular flower that may be moth-pollinated,” Pittman said. “And it has a sweet fragrance.
“It’s a wonderful plant. Hopefully we can keep it around.”
The spider lilies bloom from early May until late June, although that’s not a guarantee. So if you want to see them in 2016, hurry.
“The sooner, the better,” Ross said.
Here are five things to know about the rocky shoals spider lilies:
1) Its scientific name is Hymenocallis coronaria – which makes it easy to understand why it has nicknames: Cahaba lily, shoal lily, or rocky shoals spider lily.
2) It is only found in South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia.
3) It requires a swift, shallow water current and direct sunlight. The plant grows to about 3 feet tall and develops from a bulb that lodges in cracks in rocky shoals.
4) You can see them along the walkway at the Columbia Canal, but you may need binoculars.
5) The second-largest remaining population of rocky shoals spider lilies is in the Catawba River within the Landsford Canal State Park in Fort Lawn.
Lezlie Patterson, Special to Go Columbia
If you go
Get Your Gear On offers a 3-mile guided kayak trip on the Broad River, winding from the diversion dam down through the confluence. Call (803) 799-0999.
Adventure Carolina offers weekend tours. Call (803) 796-4505.