Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Kentucky gladecress
Leavenworthia exigua var. laciniata

Family: Brassicaceae (brass-ih-KAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Leavenworthia (lev-en-WER-thee-uh) (Info)
Species: exigua var. laciniata

Alpines and Rock Gardens

under 6 in. (15 cm)

3-6 in. (7-15 cm)
6-9 in. (15-22 cm)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:
Pale Pink
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

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By ViburnumValley
Thumbnail #1 of Leavenworthia exigua var. laciniata by ViburnumValley

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Thumbnail #2 of Leavenworthia exigua var. laciniata by ViburnumValley

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Thumbnail #3 of Leavenworthia exigua var. laciniata by ViburnumValley

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Thumbnail #4 of Leavenworthia exigua var. laciniata by ViburnumValley


2 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral sassafrasgreen On Apr 2, 2010, sassafrasgreen from Georgetown, IN wrote:

Leavenworthia exigua var. laciniata is now listed as a Candidate for protected status as an endangered species.

"Leavenworthia exigua var. laciniata (Kentucky gladecress) - The following summary is based on information in our files. Kentucky gladecress is a winter annual that is adapted to environments with shallow soils interspersed with flat-bedded limestones. The natural habitat for Kentucky gladecress is cedar glades, but the variety is also known from overgrazed pastures, eroded shallow-soil areas with exposed bedrock, and areas where the soil has been scraped off the underlying bedrock. The variety does not appear to compete well with other vegetation and is shade intolerant.

Currently, there are approximately 55 occurrences in Jefferson and Bullitt Counties, Kentucky, but at least 39 of these occurrences are of poor quality with low numbers of plants and degraded conditions. Populations of this variety are now located primarily in modified habitats such as pastureland, roadside rights of way, and cultivated or plowed fields. These populations are threatened by further habitat destruction (conversion from rural to residential land use), herbicide use, overgrazing, and competition. Some populations continue to occupy natural glade habitats, but these habitats are remnant in nature and continue to be affected by agricultural and residential conversion. The variety's primary threat, habitat destruction due to residential and commercial development, is widespread and has the potential to affect the entire range of the variety. The effects of the threat are also permanent. Therefore, these threats are high in magnitude. These threats are imminent because the conversion from rural to residential land use is ongoing.
Consequently, we assigned an LPN of 3 to this plant variety."

Positive jeff_frank On May 16, 2009, jeff_frank from Fisherville, KY wrote:

May 15 2009
KY Gladecress is a uniquely Kentucky highly localized endemic species living in the small rapidly developing area noted above. It is in precipitous decline and being evaluated for inclusion on the Federal Endangered Species list. Collection of, or disturbance to remaining plants/sites should be discouraged. If you have the plant on your property and want to help in its preservation or just have questions call the KY State Nature Preserves Commission in Frankfort, KY. They are great folks to work with. I too have had the pleasure of stewarding multiple sites that are home to the plant and it's associated glade species. The pictures on this site are first rate.

Positive ViburnumValley On Apr 21, 2007, ViburnumValley from Scott County, KY (Zone 5b) wrote:

I can hardly lay claim to extensive knowledge of this plant, but KY gladecress is one of (if not the) rarest little wildflowers in Kentucky. I am fortunate to work where I will be stewarding a healthy little population of these stalwart spring ephemerals.

Paraphrasing the KY State Nature Preserve Commissions info:

KY gladecress is a tiny plant, 2-4 inches in height with small white to lilac flowers starting in March. It has flat pod-shaped fruit, leaves that are squarish on the ends and appear as disconnected pieces (laciniate) along the main leaf vein. By the time fruit forms, the leaves may be mostly gone.

This plant typically grows only on areas of flat soil, which is usually the thin soils/gravels on or around the dolomitic limestone outcrops unique to two KY counties. It can be found in lawns and close-cropped pastures where moist bare soil is predominant in the spring.

KY gladecress habitat is becoming rarer every day, as development swells into the places it inhabits. Since its distribution range is so limited, it could disappear quickly if areas it grows in are not preserved.

I'm thankful to have seen KY gladecress, and will enjoy the opportunity to protect its home here where I work.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Louisville, Kentucky (2 reports)
Mount Washington, Kentucky

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