What is a forb and why is it important to Utah?

Local News

Courtesy: DWR

Utah (ABC4) – Spring has officially arrived in Utah. As the temperatures start to warm and the snow starts to melt, plants are beginning to pop up all across the Beehive State. 

Some of the flowers you wait all year to see up the mountains and even in your yard are beautiful and a sign that summer is on the way, but did you know these spring flowers, or forbs, hold a very important purpose for Utah’s wildlife? 

Have you ever heard of a forb before?

According to the Utah Divisio of Wildlife Resources, DWR, forbs are flower, or flower-like plants many species of wildlife throughout Utah depend on. 

Spring forbs are an anticipated feast after the long winter for many Utah animals. 

Forbs are leafy, flowering plants that provide digestible energy and nutrients for animals. The DWR says forbs supply needed nutrients for bucks, does, elk, bears, and other critters in the form of crude protein, carotene (a precursor of vitamin A), calcium, and phosphorus and are an essential part of Utah’s ecosystems. 

Jim Christensen, Northern Region Wildlife Program Manager, for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources tells ABC4 when you go up into the hills to see the wildflowers in the spring, it is forbs you’re looking at.

“If it has a flower on it, it can be considered a forb,” Christensen shares.

He says they are very nutritious for animals coming out of the long winter. Depending on the spring and weather conditions, Utah will start to see forbs as soon as the snow starts to melt. 

“They are the first things greening up, the deer really seek them out,” Christensen adds. “Forbs are plants that they can digest easily, better than grass.” 

Grass starts to green up at the same time forbs do. Christensen says if an animal starts eating only grass, they cannot digest it and will die from starvation, even though their stomach is full. 

Some forbs can even be described as weeds. Christensen says a very important forb, especially for deer, is a dandelion, something we usually hate in our lawns but are essential for animals’ spring survival.

Christensen says there are a lot of Utahns or landowners that will mow or spray their weeds away. He says if you wait a little longer to get rid of them, you can help Utah animals partake in the natural feed. 

Forbs are an essential part of Utah’s ecosystems. “It is a form of vegetation that every plant, good or bad serves a purpose from,” Christensen adds.

Forbs can even grow after a wildfire if the ground has enough moisture, Christensen tells ABC4. They come in early in the spring because the ground has lots of snowmelt and runoff.

Not only are other animals dependent on forbs but birds, insects, and even other plants like sage grass depend on the nutrient-dense vegetation.

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