Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Transplanting an endangered species

Harper’s Beauty (Harperocallis flava McDaniel) is one of the rarest of Florida’s native plants.  It is listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and by the state of Florida. It is found in 3 panhandle Florida counties, but most of it is located on the Apalachicola National Forest. 
Harper’s Beauty occurs naturally in sedge bogs and in the edges of seepage-fed shrub bogs, which are maintained with regular prescribed burning; however, a large number of plants occupy a busy highway right-of-way.  Regular mowing has resulted in persistence of the roadside population through decades, but they are exposed to uncontrollable effects of traffic. 
We are working with partners in the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Natural Areas Inventory, and National Forests in Florida to develop protocols for moving Harper’s Beauty from vulnerable roadside to more secure Forest Service habitats.

Flags mark a population of Harper's Beauty along the highway.

Can you pick them out?  Even with the help of these flags it is diffcult to correctly identify the leaves of this cousin of the lilies.

Harper's Beauty is much more easily identified when it is in flower. (photo taken last spring)

Plants to be moved were first marked with a 10cm (4 inch) paper ring...

and then dug by hand.

A dug plug!

Plugs were tagged and wrapped in newspaper for transport.

Plants awaiting planting.

Planting grids were set in what we think will be suitable habitat.  Planting spots were marked with flags.

We counted and measured shoots in each Harper's Beauty plug.

(Jason) Planting!

Our friends from National Forests in Florida and Florida Natural Areas Inventory helped us tuck them into their new homes.  Thank you volunteers!