The amazing discovery of a brilliant botanical wonder

The Cahaba River -Photo Courtesy of Greg W. EvansTim Stevens and Jim Allison - Photo Courtesy of James AllisonImagine unknowingly approaching, by canoe, what is now known as one of the most significant, biologically important reservoirs in the United States. In 1992, a Georgia botanist named James Allison, under contract with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, organized a canoe trip in Bibb County, Alabama. Exploring the unexplored, Allison and three of his friends --Timothy Stevens, Jim and Debi Rodgers-- began their adventure along the Little Cahaba River. What they found during their exploration was truly a monumental biological discovery!

The Cahaba River - Photo Courtesy of Greg W. EvansWhile exploring along the Little Cahaba River, a tributary of Alabama's longest free-flowing river and one of the most biologically rich rivers in the nation, Allison and his friends discovered a glade community unlike any that had ever been discovered before. Glades are rocky sites that, because of their rare, unique geology, serve as a habitat for communities of plants that are absent throughout the rest of the world. Since the discovery of this "botanical lost world" in the Bibb County glades of central and northwestern Alabama, more than 61rare plants, eight of which were entirely "new to science," have been found there. The botanical explorations by Allison and others that have taken place since 1992 have revealed that Bibb County is blessed with more rarities than anyone could ever have imagined. More than any other single county in the temperate southeast, Bibb County supports the broadest range of rare plant species. So, one may ask these questions: "Why is this little county in Alabama blessed with such an extraordinary botanical bounty?" "Why do these eight newly discovered plants make their home only in the glades of Bibb County, Alabama?"

The Cahaba River -Photo Courtesy of Greg W. EvansGoldline Darter - Photo Courtesy Patrick E. O'Neil