Tuscola Garden Club to meet May 20

May 05, 2014
Photo by: Donated GARDEN CLUB — The guest speaker will be Peggy Hurt who will discuss the Cullowhee lily.

Peggy Hurt, Master Gardener and Sylva Garden Club member for more than 30 years, will talk about Zephyranthes atamasca and its restoration in the mountains at the next meeting of the Tuscola Garden Club at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 20, in Gaines Auditorium at the Bethea Welcome Center, located at 91 N. Lakeshore Drive, Lake Junaluska.

The memories and lore surrounding a white flower with six petals, once so common in the Cullowhee valley that it was called the Cullowhee lily, inspired Western Carolina University alumni and community members to bring the flower back.

The project began with a fundraising drive, a bulb sale and ceremonial planting in the Centennial Garden. Also included was an a cappella performance of an original song about Cullowhee titled “Valley of the Lilies.”

The Cullowhee lily, once common at WCU, now grows in only a few spots on campus. Some speculate the water-loving plant began to disappear from the Cullowhee region when the low valley wetlands were drained first for farm use then later during construction. The proliferation of aggressive kudzu along the riverbanks may have been another factor in the disappearance of this non-competitive lily.

The effort to re-establish this favorite local flower is also helping a scholarship fund at Western. Susan Belcher, wife of WCU Chancellor David Belcher, and the WCU Alumni Association are working with local businesses and the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce to reintroduce the lily to the campus and its surrounding region. Local businesses are selling the unique flower bulbs with proceeds from the sales funding scholarships for deserving WCU students.

The initiative’s success is in large part because of community response.

“The community has embraced this initiative and they also want to see the Cullowhee lily brought back to our entire region,” said Belcher. “We feel that, by cultivating the lily, we are cultivating our partnerships, our heritage, and most importantly, the future of our students.”