Nebraska Academy of Sciences


Date of this Version

Summer 10-20-2014

Document Type



Rothenberger, SJ, Christman AM, Turek K, and O’Brien EA. 2014. South Loup River Valley Floristics: A Survey of Selected Sites in Buffalo County, Nebraska. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, 34:27-39.


Copyright (c) 2014 Steven J. Rothenberger, April M. Christman, Kevin Turek, and Emmylou A. O’Brien.


Originating in the Nebraska Sand Hills, the South Loup River flows 30 km north of Kearney, Nebraska and traverses the northern edge of Buffalo County as it flows eastward to its confluence with the Middle Loup River in southwestern Howard County. Several diverse plant communities are associated with the South Loup Valley, including wet-meadows, wetland/oxbows, sand prairie, and riparian forest. Over a period of 6 years (2006-2012), we surveyed representative wet meadow, wetland, and sand prairie communities. We compiled an annotated vascular plant checklist that included 324 vascular plant species of which 11 were new county records. Three species of scouring rushes (Equisetophyta) were also listed. Approximately 84.1% (276 species) were native and 15.9% (52) were exotics. The mean coefficient of conservatism (Cm) values for the wet meadow, sand prairie, and wetland sites were 3.51, 3.61, and 4.25 respectively. The floristic quality indices (FQI) were 52.42 for the wet meadow, 32.49 for the sand prairie, and 34.26 for the wetland/oxbow. Several noteworthy sedge species collected in this study were bristly sedge (Carex comosa), shoreline sedge (C. hyalinolepis), ripgut sedge (C. lacustris), and smoothcane sedge (C. laeviconica). Forbs at the west edge of their range included Sullivant’s milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii) and three-seeded mercury (Acalypha rhomboidea). A major objective of our study was to substantiate the significance of the South Loup River Valley to the species richness and flora of Nebraska and the Great Plains.