Learn from experts about the pluses and minuses of the presence of prairie forbs in a grassland, plains or prairie setting. Prairie forbs are native flowering wild plants that grow extensively in grassland or prairie areas. There are many different types of prairie forbs, but researchers agree that prairie forbs generally fall into two categories. In their natural setting, prairie forbs can help to maintain a natural ecosystem at its ideal functioning, but with increasing cultivation of the land their regard as a valuable asset in their natural setting is changing.
Prairie forbs can be "increasers", which means they are not readily sought out by wildlife or livestock as a source of foraging food or for other uses, and tend to multiply rapidly with no source of natural pruning. Other types of prairie forbs are what botanists call "decreasers," which means they are readily sought out as a food source or for other purposes by wildlife or livestock, and tend to decrease their presence over time. In nature, increasers and decreasers tend to balance each other out, but with heavy cultivation of the land this balance is changing.
While many consider prairie forbs to be invasive weeds, researchers who study natural ecology point to the vital role that prairie forbs play in helping to maintain the delicate balance of flora and fauna in a plains or prairie land setting. Many types of prairie forbs are legumes or contain high protein beyond that of commercial grains such as wheat and corn, and can provide valuable food and forage material for wildlife and livestock, as well as to help prevent soil erosion during inclement weather and providing a source of natural filtering for potable water. Various types of prairie forbs also are considered to have medicinal and herbal value, and are cultivated for these properties.
As you can see, there are many ways in which the growth of prairie forbs can be a plus or a minus, depending on the environment.