Kentucky is one of the most beautiful states in the country, partly because of its diverse ecosystems. The Bluegrass Region of our state is actually considered by some to be an endangered ecosystem in the U.S.
At one time, the area now referred to as Kentucky possessed numerous grassland and savannah areas covering an estimated 2-3 million acres with native plants, as well as extensive wetlands. Most of the micro-ecosystems have since been severely altered because of urban development, coal mining, tree removal, added road systems and even farming practices.
Today one of the trendy “green” concepts is to add native plants to the garden. The concept of “native” plants is somewhat relative however. A plant can be native to a region, a state or just a small area of a state. Similarly there are some native conditions preferred by certain species.
For example, our state flower is Solidago, otherwise known as goldenrod. There are a number of goldenrod species native to our state. We usually end up pulling them up out of our flower beds because they reproduce so abundantly by seed and grow so darn big. But, surprisingly there are several species of Solidago that are quite rare. This is just one example of native Kentucky plants that need to be preserved.
Many species become endangered because of the altered ecosystem and soil conditions. Others are at risk because of competition with exotic introduced plants.
One example is Kudzu, a plant of Oriental descent brought to the U.S. for livestock forage. It is found in much of southern Kentucky into Tennessee, covering entire vehicles, homes and yes even native trees. The foliage smothers the food-making leaves of our native trees and in essence out competes them.
Because the environment is excessively favorable to Kudzu and lacks the original balance of the exotic plant’s native habitat, this plant develops quickly and becomes difficult to control. Kudzu roots have actually been known to reach under roads spreading to the other side, in some cases causing the pavement to heave upwards.
Keep in mind that not all non-native plants are evil. There are certainly some lovely and reliable non-native plants, but consider contributing to the preservation of our state’s native flora. Native plants are excellent landscape option and can be creatively utilized in no-mow zones, rain gardens or wildlife gardens to name a few.
For more information on native Kentucky plants, check out http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CDBREC/native plants.htm.
If you have any questions or comments, share them with me at email@example.com or call the Franklin County Extension Service at 502-695-9035.