Rare Plants of Kentucky

A variety of native plants grow in Kentucky's diverse landscapes, including its mountainsides, prairies, streamsides, hillsides and woodlands. According to Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky, 255 plant species in Kentucky are considered endangered or threatened. Identifying these rare plants remains the first step in making sure the plants don't dwindle to extinction.

Spreading False Foxglove, Aureolaria patula

This rare perennial herb plant prefers openings in mixed hardwood forests on limestone slopes near large streams and rivers. Small yellow blooms appear in early August to late October. Exotic or non-native plants threaten this species since they can take over the area. Spreading false foxglove also suffers when the moisture conditions change such as when trees are removed or stream erosion increases.

Buffalo Clover, Trifolium reflexum

Primarily found on prairies, buffalo clover features pink to red flowers on the clover heads and long green stems with several three-part leaves. This perennial herb blooms from early May to mid-August. The plant thrives in open areas where trees are somewhat limited, making it a good idea to hand-remove any trees that prevent the plant from getting enough sun. Exotic plants threaten buffalo clover since they can take over its native growing area.

Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia

A perennial tree or shrub, red buckeye offers a spreading habit that appeals to many gardeners. The tree reaches up to 15 feet in height in gardens, but in the wild, it grows up to 30 feet in height. The foliage consists of branches of leaves with five light green leaflets. In the spring, six-inch long spikes of red tubular flowers appear. The tree thrives as an understory plant along stream banks, and while it prefers moist conditions, it handles drought considerably well once it's established. Red buckeye may be planted in the garden from seeds. In the wild, the plant is threatened by ATV trails or timber removal that change the moisture conditions it favors.

Northern Fox Grape, Vitis labrusca

The fruits from the northern fox grape may not produce the best wine in the world, but the plant offers a great source of rootstock for grafted Vitis Vinifera cuttings, a vine popular for its wine-producing fruit. In August through October, small grapes mature into edible fruits bearing four seeds inside a dark-purple, thick skin. When mature, the grapes taste somewhat sour. The plant thrives in wet woodland borders where it gets plenty of moisture as well as sun. Timber removal or disturbances such as ATV trails resulting in increased erosion and weed invasion threaten northern fox grapes growing in the wild.

Keywords: Rare Plants of Kentucky, Endangered species, Spreading False Foxglove, Northern Fox Grape, Buffalo Clover, Red Buckeye

About this Author

Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist, speaker and writer who started writing in 1998. Her articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business," "The Mortgage Press," "Seattle: 150 Years of Progress," "Destination Issaquah," and "Northwest," among others. Wagner holds a Bachelor of Science in education from Eastern Illinois University.