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Explore Kentucky’s physiographic regions at The Arboretum

Learn about and explore in real life the hundreds of species of native plants at The Arboretum.

A paved pathway surrounded by yellow flowers and trees

Take a break from studying by surrounding yourself with 60+ species of trees, shrubs, and flowers at UK’s Arboretum. | Photo by LEXtoday

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Did you know that when you stroll through the 80+ acres of The Arboretum State Botanical Garden, you’re also exploring the seven physiographic regions of Kentucky?

Yep, this isn’t your ordinary walk in the park. Here, you’re treated to 60 different species of grasses, shrubs, trees, and wildflowers thanks to a concept called Walk Across Kentucky.

The wild native plants were first introduced in 1991, and today, there are over 2,500 trees + shrubs representing different ecosystems across the state. Let’s go explore.

The Knobs Region

As you enter The Arboretum through the main entrance at Alumni Drive, you will drive through the Eastern and Western Knobs. Species you’ll see:

  • Tulip trees
  • Coffeetree
  • Bald cypress

Cumberland Mountains

While this is the smallest region featured, there is no shortage of foliage with 95+ trees per acre. Species you’ll see:

  • Native grasses
  • Wildflowers
  • Magnolia trees

Appalachian Plateau Region

As it does in its real geography, this region borders the Cumberland Mountains in Eastern Kentucky. You won’t want to miss the Appalachian wet-woods or the azalea trail. Species you’ll see:

  • Single-flowered hawthorn
  • Red-chokeberry
  • Large-flowered raspberry
A shaded path surrounded by trees and low-lying plants

Find serenity in nature in the heart of UK’s campus. | Photo by LEXtoday

Bluegrass Region

One of the largest in the park, this region features large slabs of limestone + various oak trees. Species you’ll see:

  • Prickly pear cactus
  • False aloe
  • Native cane

Shawnee Hills

If you love bright colors, check out this region’s four-acre wildflower meadow or bop around the sandstone boulders. Species you’ll see:

  • Bluebells
  • Strawberry bush
  • False indigo

Mississippi Embayment

Here, you’ll find unique flora, as well as a constructed wetland with a boardwalk, island, and pool. Species you’ll see:

  • Water locust
  • Water tupelo
  • Wildlife like turtles + ducks

Pennyrile

This region’s tallgrass prairie ecosystem makes it a haven for numerous birds + insects seeking shelter and food. Species you’ll see:

  • Carolina buckthorn
  • Persimmon tree
  • Sugarberry tree
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