The Appalachian Plateau (AP) region is a distinctive collection of eastern Kentucky plant life.  On the Walk Across Kentucky (just like actual geography) it borders the Cumberland Mountains and Eastern Knobs sections, where beech trees, American hollies, and white pines nicely transition between regions.  Many hidden gems are scattered in the AP collection, including the single-flowered hawthorn, red-chokeberry, and large-flowered raspberry.  Oak trees such as white oak, scarlet oak, and northern red oak dominate the overstory, though maples, sycamore, ash, and pine are also well-represented.  This region has a number of interesting exhibits to explore, include the trail of pines, the Appalachian wet-woods, the azalea trail, and Appalachian meadow.   

From ‘The Big Picture: Ecological Regions of Kentucky’ by Dr. Julian Campbell:

“This large, varied region includes most of what people commonly call ‘Eastern Kentucky’.  It also extends into Ohio and West Virginia further north, and into Tennessee and Alabama further south.  Most uplands in this region have sandstones and shales formed about 290-330 million years ago.  These sediments were probably washed in from erosion of the original igneous mountains of ancient Appalachia.  They were deposited in shallow seas and coastal marshes that lay on top of the older, mostly deeper seabeds that outcrop in the Bluegrass and Knobs Regions.  These coastal shelves became filled with sediment, and sea level was lowered further during more recent eras.  Especially in upper strata, there is much coal, which was compressed from remains of marsh vegetation that included tree-like relatives of ferns that are now extinct.

Most ridgelines in the region reach a consistent elevation of 1000-1500 feet above sea level, suggesting a former high “plateau”, now much dissected.  For millennia, forest has covered almost all this land.  In addition to deciduous trees, a large proportion of evergreen shrubs and conifers occur on less fertile soils.  Many rare species, including endemics, occur in special habitats along the clifflines and watercourses that interrupt the forest cover.  The cliff section, especially the southern part drained by the Cumberland River, has extraordinarily high biodiversity.  This southern section includes many rare fishes, mussels and other invertebrates in the larger streams and rivers.  The rocky riverbanks, rockhouses, and clifftops also have many rare plants.  In a few areas, forests appear to have become open, with distinctive grasses and herbs, due to frequent fires, at least during the past 5000 years.”