Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Brad R. Ruhfel

Department Affiliation

Biological Sciences

Second Advisor

Luke E. Dodd

Department Affiliation

Biological Sciences

Third Advisor

Jennifer M. Koslow

Department Affiliation

Biological Sciences


The Red River Gorge (RRG) is a 26,283 ha natural area within Menifee, Powell, and Wolfe counties of Kentucky. This area is in the Cumberland Plateau Physiographic Section which is a southern subsection of the Appalachian Plateau Physiographic Province. It is a mecca of outdoor recreation, hosting thousands of visitors each year, while also being home to a unique flora worthy of continued protection. A vascular flora was conducted between the fall of 2016 and the summer of 2018. Additional vouchers donated by Dr. Ross C. Clark and the Stanton Ranger District office, as well as vouchers deposited at regional herbaria were used to complete this flora. This project utilized 3021 vouchers from 1940-2018, and documented 1023 taxa, including 1004 species, 455 genera, and 139 families. The most taxon-rich families include Asteraceae (137), Poaceae (99), Cyperaceae (74), Fabaceae (50), and Rosaceae (49). There were 145 exotic species found, including 74 that are considered invasive in some way by the Kentucky Invasive Plant Council. A total of 23 taxa found are state-listed, including Solidago albopilosa a RRG endemic. Additionally, 40 taxa found are new county records and 40 taxa are new to the RRG. There were 10 ecological systems found in the RRG with 33 unique associations within them. Of these, 11 associations are listed as vulnerable (G3) and three are listed as imperiled (G2) by NatureServe. A species-area curve was updated for the Cumberland Plateau Physiographic Section resulting in an improved r2 value of 0.86.