Overview of Herbs/Forbs
Inventory of Herb/Forb Families and Species
Seasonal Flowering Chart
Plant Names (Scientific Nomenclature/Common Names)
Neary 200 species of herbs/forbs, encompassing forty-seven herb/forb
families, have been identified as occurring in Sky Meadows State
Park. Direct field observation and photographic evidence has been
obtained for each identified herb/forb species. It is anticipated that
additional species may be identified during subsequent research.
Every attempt has been made to achieve as accurate an inventory
of herb/forb species as possible; however, several important caveats
need to be kept in mind when using the Nature Guide. These caveats
First, the inventory of herbs/forbs included in the Nature Guide
should not be considered all inclusive. No assumption has been made
that all the various herbs/forbs inhabitating Sky Meadows State Park
have been observed. All herbs/forbs included in the Nature Guide
have been observed from the various Park trails; very limited off-
trail research has been conducted. It is feasible that some species of
herbs/forbs may inhabitat areas of the Park not readily accessible to
the causal visitor. Since the purpose of the Nature Guide is to provide
visitors with information pertaining to the most likely encountered
species, most research has been conducted directly off the main trails
or within viewing distance from the main trails.
Second, the inventory of herbs/forbs is a tentative list. The field re-
search necessary to obtain accurate information for the Nature Guide
will require several years. It is anticipated that additional species will
be identified and incorporated into the inventory, while modifications
will be made in the current status of individual species.
Third, most herb/forb species have consistent morphological charact-
eristics and, in general, can be readily identified. However, some of
the distinguishing morphological characteristics that differentiate one
species from another are difficult to observe, can be observed only
during a short period of time, and require extensive botanical know-
ledge (usually beyond that of the causal visitor to Sky Meadows
Park). In addition, some herb/ forb species are subdivided into vari-
eties or subspecies, with, again, diffi- cult to observe characteristics
requiring a highly technical understanding of plant morphology.
This problem is sometimes further compounded by the lack of agree-
ment by professional botanists as to what constitutes a distinct species,
variety, or subspecies. And, to aggravate the situation even further,
there is no reference work currently available that identifies and de-
scribes all species of forbs/herbs currently catalogued as occurring
Fourth, unlike trees or shrubs, the presence of some forbs/herbs with-
in Sky Meadows Park is difficult to ascertain. While most of the forbs/
herbs observed in Sky Meadows Park have been sufficient in number
and distribution to conclude that they are "established" as thriving
plant communities, some forbs/herbs are not sufficient in either num-
ber or distribution to determine whether or not they are established (in
a few cases, a single specimen of a species has been observed). Some
of these species may not survive beyond the initial period of observa-
tion; only after repeated observations over several years can more
definitive judgments be made.
Information for herb/forb species was obtained from a variety of
sources. The Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) provided the
"core" database for much species information as well as general
entry structure. John Hilty's Illinois Wildflower website
also provided substantial information. Additional information from
other sources has been "integrated" with the FEIS. Other primary
information sources include:
USDA Forest Service
VDF (Virginia Department of Forestry)
The general information format used by the Fire Effects Information
System (see "Databases" section of website for discussion of FEIS) is
used for most tree entries. Some modifcations in structure have been
employed. The following is a delineation of the modified FEIS format.
CITATION: The common herb/forb name(s) followed by the current
COMMON NAMES: List of generally accepted common names.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Three category status of confirmation -
not confirmed, pending confirmation, and confirmed. Not confirmed
is assigned to a species that is known to occur in the region, but has
not been observed in Sky Meadow Park. Pending confirmation is
assigned to a species that has been observed in Sky Meadows Park
but still needs identification by a recognized authority. Confirmed is
assigned to a species that has both been observed in Sky Meadows
Park and has been identified by a recognized authority.
SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS: Partial list of previously used scientific
TAXONOMY: Current taxonomic classification with discussion of
varities or subspecies, as well as hybridization characteristics.
NATIVE STATUS: Includes information pertaining to whether the
herb/forb is native or introduced as it occurs in the United States and
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Includes informa-
tion describing basic botanical characteristics (e.g., form, leaves, fruit,
REGENERATION PROCESSES: Regeneration from vegetative parts
and from seed.
HABITAT TYPES: General habitat types.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Includes information on topography,
soil types and elevations where species occurs.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Flowering and fruiting dates.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: The general North American (United
States and Canada) distrubution of herb/forb species.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: Distribution of herb/forb species
within Sky Meadows State Park.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Importance of herb/forb species to
wildlife and livestock, value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites, con-
sturuction material and ornamental use, and any medicinal character-
Overview of Herbs/Forbs
The terms "herb" and "forb" are applied to those plants that do not have
woody stems (see "Description of herbs/forbs" below for a more compre-
hensive discussion). Both terms are more appropriately defined as
"growth form" descriptors as opposed to taxonomic designations. No
specific taxon designation (Order or Family) is presumed; many plant
families include herbaceous and nonherbaceous species. While botanists
ascribe technical definitions to both terms, the typical visitor to Sky
Meadows Park is more likely to use the non-scientific term "wild-
flower" (or just "flower"). This can sometimes lead to confusion - the
term "flower" as used below in the "General Botanical Characteristic"
sections refers to a specific anatomical reproductive organ, a concept
well understood by the general public. In non-technical terms, the repro-
ductive organ "flower" is used to describe a characteristic of a "flower" -
that is, the "flower" part describes the "flower" whole. To avoid con-
fusion, the terms "herbs" or "forbs" will be used to designate a "flower"
species, while the term "flower" will be restricted to the anatomical
Description of Herbs/Forbs
A herbaceous plant (in botanical use simply herb) is a plant that has
leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to
the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground.
Herbaceous plants may be annuals, biennials or perennials.
Annual herbaceous plants die completely at the end of the growing
season or when they have flowered and fruited, and they then grow
again from seed.
Herbaceous perennial and biennial plants have stems that die at the
end of the growing season, but parts of the plant survive under or
close to the ground from season to season (for biennials, until the
next growing season, when they flower and die). New growth devel-
ops from living tissues remaining on or under the ground, including
roots, a caudex (a thickened portion of the stem at ground level) or
various types of underground stems, such as bulbs, corms, stolons,
rhizomes and tubers. Examples of herbaceous biennials include car-
rot, parsnip and common ragwort; herbaceous perennials include
peony, hosta, mint, most ferns and most grasses. By contrast, non-
herbaceous perennial plants are woody plants which have stems
above ground that remain alive during the dormant season and grow
shoots the next year from the above-ground parts – these include
trees, shrubs and vines.
Forbs are herbaceous flowering plants that are not graminoids
(grasses, sedges and rushes). The term is frequently used in biology
and in vegetation ecology, especially in relation to grasslands. Forbs
represent a "guild" of plant species with broadly similar growth form,
which in ecology is often more important than taxonomic relationship.
In addition to its use in ecological studies, the term forb may also be
used for subdividing popular guides to the wildflowers of a region,
together with other categories such as ferns, grasses, shrubs and trees.
This approach is not followed in formal regional floras, which are
usually organised taxonomically.
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