Forbs provide the greatest variety of plant species in the prairie than any other category of plants. Forbs are herbaceous (non-woody) flowering plants that are not grasses. They are very important to the prairie ecosystem, providing essential elements for many wildlife species.
Forbs provide many wildlife species food and cover. Many grassland birds depend on the umbrella growth form that certain forbs provide to use for cover. The seeds from many species of forbs provide a great abundance of food for wildlife. Endangered butterfly species rely on certain forbs for nectar. They provide a diversity of plant species in the prairie providing suitable habitat for many species of wildlife.
Forbs provide cattle a very high protein content that cannot be found in most grasses. Bison eat limited to no forbs.
The diversity of forbs is very important to the prairie ecosystem. Many wildlife species could not survive without the food and cover that forbs provide. Cattle cannot get the amount of protein from grasses that they can get from forbs in the growing season.