From Cacapon March 2000

Spotlight on Rare and Endangered Species


        Harperella (Ptillimnium nodosum) is a wildflower so rare it is found in only 10 places in the world.  In West Virginia it is only found along the Cacapon River and some sections of Sleepy Creek and Back Creek.  The plant, which looks a bit like a small Queen Anne’s Lace with small white flowers and quill-like leaves, grows on gravel bars, islands and the river’s shores.  Not much is known about the biology of this plant.  However, it’s possible that Harperella may have medicinal properties, since many other species in the same plant family (such as hemlock) do. 

The WV Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) reported that Harperella populations and habitat took a beating during the 1996 floods — stem counts went from 10,000 before the flood to 33 after (John Beckman, WVDNR, personal communication).  However, WVDNR is optimistic about Harperella’s return because the gravel bars that were washed out by the 1996 floods and which are Harperella’s main habitat are slowly building back up.  Hopefully, we’ll see more of Harperella soon.

The Lost/Cacapon River Watershed contains almost 100 rare species of plants and animals.  These include organisms with such colorful names as the kidneyleaf mud-plantain, candy’s mountain lover, silver nail-wort, West Virginia blind cave millipede, and the mountain pimpernel.  We plan to periodically bring you articles that focus on a rare species found in the watershed.