Section Overview


Information Format

Overview of Herbs/Forbs


Page Links

Inventory of Herb/Forb Families and Species
Seasonal Flowering Chart

Plant Names (Scientific Nomenclature/Common Names)

Botanical Glossary


Section Overview


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
in Virginia.


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:


PLANTS Database
USDA Forest Service
VDF (Virginia Department of Forestry)


Information Format


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
scientific nomenclature.

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



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

reporductive organs.


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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