Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Plant Life of Kentucky

Plant Life of Kentucky: An Illustrated Guide to the Vascular Flora

Ronald L. Jones
John W. Thieret
Charles J. Lapham
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 856
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Plant Life of Kentucky
    Book Description:

    Plant Life of Kentucky is the first comprehensive guide to all the ferns, flowering herbs, and woody plants of the state. This long-awaited work provides identification keys for Kentucky's 2,600 native and naturalized vascular plants, with notes on wildlife/human uses, poisonous plants, and medicinal herbs. The common name, flowering period, habitat, distribution, rarity, and wetland status are given for each species, and about 80 percent are illustrated with line drawings. The inclusion of 250 additional species from outside the state (these species are "to be expected" in Kentucky) broadens the regional coverage, and most plants occurring from northern Alabama to southern Ohio to the Mississippi River (an area of wide similarity in flora) are examined, including nearly all the plants of western and central Tennessee. The author also describes prehistoric and historical changes in the flora, natural regions and plant communities, significant botanists, current threats to plant life, and a plan for future studies. Plant Life of Kentucky is intended as a research tool for professionals in biology and related fields, and as a resource for students, amateur naturalists, and others interested in understanding and preserving our rich botanical heritage.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7194-4
    Subjects: Botany & Plant Sciences

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xv)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xvii-xviii)

    • Section 1. Overview of This Book
      (pp. 2-10)

      This book provides answers to basic questions about the vascular plant life of Kentucky: What plants occur in the state? How are they identified? What are their scientific and common names? When do they flower? Where do they grow? Are they native or non-native? and Are they common or rare? Family descriptions are provided, as well as notes on toxicity, wildlife and human uses, and other items of interest. Pertinent literature is referenced, especially recent publications and the significant floristic contributions of Kentucky authors. For perspective, much background information is given, including an overview of the state, the geologic history...

    • Section 2. The Physical Setting of Kentucky
      (pp. 11-16)

      Kentucky was admitted to the Union in 1792, and its current boundaries were established in 1818 with the acquisition of the Jackson Purchase from the Chickasaws (figure 2). These boundaries enclose about 103,000 square kilometers of land and 1,700 square kilometers of water, totaling 104,700 square kilometers (40,411 square miles, or 25.9 million acres). Natural river boundaries (1,376 kilometers or 855 miles of river borders) separate Kentucky from Missouri to the west; from Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio to the north; and from West Virginia to the east. Other states with contiguous borders are Virginia to the southeast and Tennessee to...

    • Section 3. Vegetation of Kentucky
      (pp. 17-37)

      At the time of settlement it has been estimated that forests covered about 90–95 percent of Kentucky, with barrens and other open communities occurring on about 5–10 percent of the land (Taylor 1958). This vegetation pattern has changed greatly since settlement, primarily from frequent logging, mining, repeated burning, and grazing. Today Kentucky is about 50 percent forested, and the original barrens have virtually disappeared.

      Recent references with information on the vegetation of Kentucky include: forNorth America— Barbour&Christensen (1993); forsoutheastern United States—Martin et al. (1993a, 1993b), Hackney et al. (1993), and Weakley et al. (1998); and...

    • Section 4. Floristic Affinities
      (pp. 38-40)

      According to Thorne (1993), Kentucky falls within two floristic regions, the Appalachian Province Floristic Region, which includes the Appalachian and Interior Low Plateaus, and the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain Floristic Province, which encompasses the Mississippi Embayment of western Kentucky. The former region includes most of eastern North America (north of the Coastal Plain), an area that was nearly entirely covered by deciduous forest in presettlement times with numerous kinds of habitats; while the latter region includes coastlines and adjacent regions of similar elevations from New England to Texas and extends north along the Mississippi River to southern Illinois. This...

    • Section 5. Endemics
      (pp. 41-41)

      Endemics are those species restricted to a particular habitat or geographical area. Examples of species endemic to particular habitats in Kentucky are those previously listed for rocky stream banks, cedar glades, the Cumberland Highlands, and rockhouses. Some plants are found only within certain physiographic boundaries (see Little 1970). Table 12 provides a list of the various kinds of endemic species associated with Kentucky and surrounding areas.

      There are only two true Kentucky endemics. One is white-haired goldenrod (Solidago albopilosa), which is restricted to sandstone rockhouses and ledges in the Red River Gorge region of Powell, Menifee, and Wolfe counties. The...

    • Section 6. Conservation Status
      (pp. 42-44)

      There are three levels of protection available for vascular plants in the United States––international, federal, and state. At the international level, the protection exists through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This is an international agreement, now signed by more than one hundred countries, to control the trade of rare plants and animals. With regard to Kentucky plants, this agreement currently affects the export of ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and members of the Orchidaceae. To prevent overcollection of these plants for medicinal or ornamental purposes, the CITES sets quotas for the quantity of plant...

    • Section 7. The Status of Old-growth Forest in Kentucky
      (pp. 45-50)

      Various definitions of “old-growth” forest have been proposed (Duffy & Meier 1992; Held & Winstead 1975; Leverett 1996; and Martin 1992). As opposed to virgin forests, those untouched by humans, old-growth forests may have experienced some past disturbances but have retained most features considered typical of presettlement forests. These forests are usually defined by the presence of the following set of features: many large trees over 200 years old, often producing a basal area of over 25 square meters per hectare; an uneven understory of seedlings, saplings, young trees, and mature trees; many fallen trees and dead snags; a mostly...

    • Section 8. A History of Plant Conservation in Kentucky
      (pp. 51-52)

      Only in relatively recent times have Kentuckians enacted laws or established practices aimed at protecting our natural resources. Years of coal and timber and wetland exploitation eventually gave way to the realization by citizens and politicians of the degraded condition of much of the Kentucky landscape. Several reports appeared in the 1940s and 1950s that described the need to develop sound policies on developing and safeguarding Kentucky’s natural resources (Briscoe et al. 1948 and Taylor 1958). Changes in thinking were also occurring around the United States, and various philosophies of protection arose, including the utilitarian approach of Gifford Pinchot (management...

    • Section 9. A History of Plant Life in Kentucky
      (pp. 53-63)

      The geologic history of Kentucky has been reviewed by McDowell (1986), McFarlan (1943), and McGrain (1983). Potter (1996) provided an overview of the geology of the northern Kentucky area. The discussion and terminology of continental movements in the following discussion follow those of Stanley (1999). Additional information on geologic history was gathered from the Web page of the Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS 2003). See figure 7 for a geologic map of the state and table 16 for a geologic time scale.

      Today the exposed rocks in Kentucky are nearly all sedimentary in origin and were formed from both marine and...

    • Section 10. Postsettlement Changes in the Plant Life of Kentucky
      (pp. 64-72)

      The early European settlers of Kentucky found vast tracts of forest composed of huge trees, open woodlands on the fertile plains and rolling hills, many miles of clean streams, great amounts of mineral resources, and abundant game, so that Kentucky must have truly seemed a “land of opportunity” to the early colonists. The natural resources no doubt seemed endless and inexhaustible, so there was little concern or worry about conservation as the settlers struggled to survive and prosper, to build towns and cities and industries, to create governments, and, in so doing, to carve a society out of the primeval...

    • Section 11. A History of Floristic Botany in Kentucky
      (pp. 73-86)

      Floristic botany is the branch of science that deals with the occurrence and distribution of plant species in a region. These studies typically involve field surveys, collection of voucher specimens, listing of known species, and description of new species. Formal botanical investigations in Kentucky did not begin until the late eighteenth century, with the studies of the great French botanist André Michaux. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Kentucky was actually a hotbed of botanical activity, involving C.S. Rafinesque, C.W. Short, and others. Studies conducted in the region contributed to some of the major floristic publications of the...

    • Section 12. Current Status of Floristic Studies in Kentucky
      (pp. 87-90)

      Many kinds of floristic studies have been conducted in Kentucky over the last two centuries, including studies of natural areas, counties, and multicounty areas. Most of these studies have been published, typically in scientific journals or in books, and several compilations and summaries of the Kentucky botanical literature are available (Browne 1965; Davies 1953; Fuller 1979; Fuller et al. 1989; Meijer 1970; Shacklette 1940, 1941; and Taylor 1995). These papers provide a historical perspective on floristic studies and are valuable sources of information on the literature of field botany in Kentucky.

      Most floristic work in Kentucky has been accomplished by...

    • Literature Cited in Part I
      (pp. 91-106)

    • Introduction to the Keys
      (pp. 108-108)

      For information on the use of these keys, see “Keys” in section 1 of the introduction. Also see table 1 for a list of abbreviations used in part II. In particular, note the following frequently used abbreviations that precede many species names in the species accounts:

      *—A non-native species, that is, adventive, introduced, naturalized, persistent, or waifs (See “Non-Native Species” in section 1 of the introduction.)

      !—A rare species listed by the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission as Endangered, Threatened, Special Concern, Historical, or Extinct/Extirpated

      ^—A species not yet documented in Kentucky but one that is found...

    • General Key to Vascular Plants of Kentucky
      (pp. 109-148)
    • Chapter 1. Pteridophytes of Kentucky
      (pp. 149-168)

      Pteridophytes, also known as ferns and fern allies, are seedless vascular plants. They are of an ancient lineage dating back about 400 million years. Tree ferns, giant lycopods, giant horsetails, and many other now extinct pteridophyte groups dominated the earth’s surface for over 100 million years, until eventually supplanted by the rise of the gymnosperms about 300 million years ago. Their former dominance in Kentucky is still evident by the presence of their leaf impressions in rocks, by their fossilized stems, and especially by the vast coal deposits formed by their fossilized bodies. Today only seventy-six native taxa of pteridophytes...

    • Chapter 2. Gymnosperms of Kentucky
      (pp. 170-174)

      The gymnosperms are woody vascular plants that produce naked seeds, often in cones. They therefore lack the characteristic flowers and fruits of angiosperms. Gymnosperms arose about 300 million years ago, becoming dominant during the same period that dinosaurs were the major animal group. Many groups of gymnosperms are now extinct, with only four major lineages (divisions) surviving to the present: Cycadophyta (cycads), Ginkgophyta (maidenhair tree), Gnetophyta (including three bizarre genera —Ephedra, Gnetum,andWelwitschia), and Coniferophyta (conifers). All native Kentucky gymnosperms (ten species) are conifers. They are shrubs or trees, having wood composed of simple xylem cells (tracheids). The leaves...

    • Chapter 3. Dicotyledonae of Kentucky
      (pp. 175-576)

      The division Magnoliophyta, or angiosperms, comprises about 250,000 species worldwide and is the dominant and most important group of plants on earth, both economically and ecologically. The angiosperms are characterized by the presence of vessels in their xylem, by complex phloem cells (sieve tube elements and companion cells), by flowers with ovaries enclosing seeds, and by double fertilization. They arose over 100 million years ago, becoming dominant by about 60 million years ago, and are associated with the rise of insects and mammals. Two classes have traditionally been recognized in the angiosperms: Dicotyledonae (or dicots) and Monocotyledonae (or monocots). However,...

    • Chapter 4. Monocotyledonae of Kentucky
      (pp. 577-730)

      The Monocotyledonae are a group of flowering plants composed of about 56,000 species worldwide, characterized by the following features: single cotyledon in the seed, stem vascular bundles scattered, parallel venation in the leaves, and flower parts in 3s. There are many exceptions to these generalizations. Most species are herbaceous, but some of our genera do produce woody tissues, in particular,ArundinariaandPhyllostachysin Poaceae,Yuccain Agavaceae, and someSmilaxspecies in Smilacaceae. Included in the monocots are the graminoids—Poaceae, Cyperaceae, and Juncaceae. These grasslike groups often dominate wetland habitats across Kentucky and are notable for their linear-lanceolate...

    (pp. 731-732)

    This book is an account of the vascular plant life existing in Kentucky at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It is essentially a snapshot in time. In much earlier times, tropical floras existed in the region, and in glacial times the flora was more boreal. Species assemblages associated with our current temperate deciduous forests have developed only in the last 10,000 years, since the retreat of the last glacier. It was also during this time period that human societies emerged at various sites around the world, including North America.

    Human activities, beginning with the Native Americans and much accelerating...

  8. Literature Cited in Part II
    (pp. 733-742)
  9. APPENDIX ONE. Glossary
    (pp. 743-779)
  10. APPENDIX TWO. Index of Part I
    (pp. 780-786)
  11. APPENDIX THREE. Index of Scientific Names in Part II
    (pp. 787-814)
  12. APPENDIX FOUR. Index of Common Names in Part II
    (pp. 815-833)
  13. APPENDIX FIVE. Index of Popular Books (with Color Photographs) on the Flora of the South-central United States and the Southern Appalachians
    (pp. 834-834)