The KSNPC Botany Program is responsible for inventorying and monitoring lichens, mosses, seed plants and ferns. KSNPC botanists gather data from field work, review of scientific literature and collaboration with other agencies and experts in the field.
The flora of Kentucky is a living expression of the landscape—the physical features across the state. Other influences on plant distributions range from glacial events to animal behavior to plant genetics. There is an estimated 2,464 native plant species (excluding algae) found in Kentucky. While this number is not high compared to other states (30th in the nation), the Kentucky flora is nevertheless unique and a melding of five different regional floras. The floras of the Appalachian Mountains, Gulf Coastal floodplain, Mississippi river floodplain, and the Great Plains, as well as a few species from northern forests, all influence the makeup of the state’s flora.
The seed plants include plants that flower and the cone-bearing trees (pines, junipers, cypress, and hemlock). Some of the most familiar plants in the Kentucky flora are deciduous trees, such as sugar maple and sycamore; showy seasonal perennials, such as bloodroot, which signals the beginning of spring; and ironweed and goldenrod, reminders of summer’s end. Each native plant occupies an ecological niche influenced by factors including soil, light, and water availability. Plant by plant, species adapt to different conditions and sort into natural communities across the landscape.