There are photographs of about 80 species of plants shown in this work. This includes most of the plant species or genera eaten by the approximately 200 species of butterflies found in Nebraska. Most of these photographs were taken by Hal Nagel. About 10 were taken by Jon Farrar of Lincoln. Genus and species names (scientific name and common names are given with each plant).
Plants are sometimes identified by an ecological separation, rather than by using the more scientific method. It includes the units of 1. tree, 2. shrub, 3. vine, 4. grass, 5. forbs, and 6. graminoid. These names are easier to remember than genus and species names and they allow an intermediate level of plant description.
Trees, vines and shrubs all have their reproductive buds located above ground on the branches. Trees are usually over 30 feet tall at maturity. Shrubs are usually less than 30 feet tall at maturity. Vines grow on other objects and also have woody tissue and aerial buds.
Forbs, grasses, and graminoids do not have woody tissue (usually) and are much shorter than shrubs or trees. Forbs have net venation in the leaves and many-timkes have showy flowers. Grasses and graminoids have parallel venation and their buds are located belowground. Graminoids look like a grass but are not. They typically live in wetlands. Most graminoids fed upon by butterflies are sedges.
Nebraska was, of course, a prairie state. Almost all of Nebraka's land area before European settlers invaded and began farming it was grasses and forbs. Forbs usually made up less than 20% of prairie vegetation.
Of the 200 species of butterflies which have been recorded in Nebraska, nearly half of them feed on forbs as larvae. About 17% feed on grasses as larvae (mostly skippers). Prior to 1880, or so, Nebraska had trees and shrubs only along rivers, where they were protected from fire. In spite of this, nearly 20% of today’s butterflies feed on trees and an additional 8% feed on shrubs.
The species living on woody species of plants apparently have moved to the upland over the past 125 years, thus increasing their percentage. The loss of forbs to pasture spraying should be of concern, since such a large percentage of butterflies forage there and almost all nectaring is done on these plants.