Volume 26, Number 5  ●  June 12, 2018

Don't Harp About Project Delays! Schedule Harperella Surveys Now to Avoid Them

WSSI staff found this harperella specimen in 2014

WSSI staff found this harperella specimen in 2014

As we approach the mid-summer months, our environmental scientists are preparing for another season of harperella (Ptilimnium nodosum) surveys.  This small, endangered member of the carrot family lives along larger rocky creeks in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina.  If you have projects in these states, you can minimize impacts to your project schedule by having Wetland Studies and Solutions perform a harperella habitat evaluation or survey early in the development process – preferably within the July 1 to September 30 field survey window.  

As a federally-threatened and state-endangered species in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, harperella is protected by both federal and state endangered species laws.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Maryland Department of the Environment, and North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality must each consider potential impacts to harperella before issuing permits to impact wetlands and other jurisdictional waters.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recommends that we conduct a survey for harperella if your project is within a county where the species is present and suitable habitat exists on your project site – or if your project site is in an adjacent county where harperella could be present.  If you miss this survey window, your wetland permit could be delayed up to an entire year. 

Where is Harperella?

The USFWS reports that harperella is present in these Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina counties:  

State Known County Occurence Believed to Occur
Maryland Allegany, Washington
Virginia Stafford Prince William, Frederick, Mecklenburg
North Carolina Chatham, Granville, Lee


We can help!

Wetland Studies and Solutions has USFWS-approved surveyors for harperella on staff, and we have conducted many habitat evaluations and surveys for this species throughout the Mid-Atlantic.  We can conduct preliminary (and relatively inexpensive) site evaluations at any time of year to determine whether there is potentially suitable habitat for harperella on your project site – and for some sites, this habitat evaluation may be all that is necessary to confirm absence of the species.  Note that surveys are valid for one year, and if the site is not developed within this time period the USFWS may request that the site be re-surveyed.

Contact us to schedule your harperella survey now and keep this species from delaying your wetlands permit!  We can help you determine whether your project site encompasses harperella habitat, and can conduct a habitat evaluation or survey to confirm the absence or presence of the species.  For more information about harperella please contact Ben Rosner, Beth Clements, or Jennifer Feese in our Gainesville office, Mike Klebasko or Ken Wallis in our Millersville office, or Troy Savage in our Richmond office. 

More About Harperella

Harperella has thin green leaves that look similar to grass.  Plants produce several umbels (umbrella-like clusters) of small white flowers in the summer – but by late summer and fall only leaves remain, and the plant dies back completely in the winter months.  Harperella generally grows along larger creeks with little to no overhead canopy coverage.  Hydrology is the most important factor in harperella habitat, so the substrate must be stable and seasonally flooded.  Areas along the creek that are too wet or too dry will not support harperella.  

Check out past issues in the Field Notes Archive.

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