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Tennessee Gladecress, Least Glade-cress, Pasture Gladecress, Kentucky Gladecress - Leavenworthia exigua


Family: Brassicaceae - Mustard family Genus Common Name: Gladecress Native Status: Native
Leavenworthia exigua - Tennessee Gladecress, Least Glade-cress, Pasture Gladecress, Kentucky Gladecress. Leavenworthia - Gladecress - is a small genus of 8 species (7 if you don’t subscribe to the separation of Leavenworthia aurea var. texana to species status as Leavenworthia texana) endemic to the southern and southeastern states, some reaching southern Indiana and Ohio at the most northern part of their range, as far west as eastern Texas and Oklahoma. These winter annuals are found in cedar and limestone glades and other nearby areas of thin soils that are saturated during the winter and spring, but dry during the summer and fall. The seeds of these winter annuals germinate during the autumn, and the plant overwinters in the wet environment as a small rosette of leaves. The flowers and seeds come in the early spring while it is still wet, then the seeds lie dormant during the late spring and summer dry season, a season which is desert-like in the cedar and limestone glades.

Leavenworthia exigua is one of the more widely distributed species in the genus, found in 4 states. Only L. uniflora (Michaux’s Gladecress) - found in 9 states - has wider distribution. L. exigua is considered by most authorities to have three varieties, although there appears to be some consideration that the varieties are simply forms of the species. L. exigua var. exigua, Tennessee Gladecress, is endemic to limestone glades of several counties in central Tennessee and two counties in northwest Georgia. L. exigua var. lutea, also known as Tennessee Gladecress, has entirely yellow petals and is endemic to limestone glades of one county in Alabama and two counties in Tennessee. The third variety, L. exigua var. laciniata, is known as Kentucky Gladecress and is found in limestone glades of a few counties in Kentucky. It is rare and protected in all four states where it is found. Leavenworthia exigua var. exigua is what is presented on this page.

Found in:
AL, GA, KY, TN
Leavenworthia exigua

Distribution of Leavenworthia exigua in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 19 Feb 2017). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

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Site: Chickamauga Battlefield Cedar Glade, Catoosa County, Ga Date: 2016-March-25Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
Leavenworthia exigua is among smaller-blossomed Gladecress species - L. uniflora is smaller. The four petals are shallowly notched at the tips, and are white (sometimes lavender) with a yellow base, except var. lutea has petals which are completely yellow. The styles of Kentucky Gladecress (var. laciniata) are about twice as long as those of the other varieties.
Leavenworthia exigua

Site: Chickamauga Battlefield Cedar Glade, Catoosa County, Ga Date: 2016-March-25Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The flowers are usually solitary on a pedicel under 3 inches tall.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Leavenworthia exigua

Site: Chickamauga Battlefield Cedar Glade, Catoosa County, Ga Date: 2016-March-25Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The flower of Tennessee Gladecress is about a quarter of an inch to a half inch across. The sepals spread increasingly as the flower matures, and are usually lavender on the outer surface, except they are green on Leavenworthia exigua var. laciniata.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Leavenworthia exigua

Site: Chickamauga Battlefield Cedar Glade, Catoosa County, Ga Date: 2016-March-25Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The leaves are a basal rosette about an inch across through the winter. In the spring they grow up to about 2.5 inches long (including the petiole) and are lobed, from a single lobe at the end of the leaf stalk, to many lobes along the stalk in pairs. The terminal lobe is always much larger the the other lobes.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Leavenworthia exigua

Site: Chickamauga Battlefield Cedar Glade, Catoosa County, Ga Date: 2016-March-25Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The seedpod becomes a flattened silique which may be up to about .25 inch wide and .75 inch long. The plant grows in an area that is very wet during winter and spring; in this photo the sparkles are reflections of the sun in the water which is standing about a half inch deep over those pebbles.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Leavenworthia exigua

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer