Plant Guide


native plants growing on lakesshoreThe Plant Guide contains information about native plant species suitable for planting in Minnesota and non-native species that don't belong in our natural shoreland.

The Plant Guide is intended for use by property owners, nursery and landscape professionals, and natural resource professionals.

headphone icon, Welby Smith closeup Welby Smith introduces the Plant Guide.

While it is a technical reference, the Plant Guide contains practical features designed to support shoreline restoration projects

The Plant Guide contains the following sections:

Native Plant Communities - You will discover the role, importance, and characteristics of some of Minnesota's native plant communities. This information will be useful as you design your plantings and select species for your own project.

Native Plant Encyclopedia - The Native Plant Encyclopedia is the heart of the Plant Guide. It presents in-depth information and photos for hundreds of native plants recommended for shoreland settings. A search function enables you to create a customized plant list for your own site.

Invasive Non-native Plants - For property owners, the first two rules are: (1) know the enemy, (2) know how to defeat the enemy. This section describes in words and photos the most common invasive species and their habitat, identification aids, the threat they pose, control methods, and suggested native alternatives.

"We cultivate imported shrubs in our front yards for the beauty of their berries, while at least equally beautiful berries grow unregarded by us in the surrounding fields."
Henry David Thoreau

From Wild Fruits by Henry David Thoreau, © 2000 by Bradley P. Dean. By permission of W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.

Why Natives?

Native plant communities are groupings of many plant species that occur naturally in a given environment. It is important for shoreline owners to understand the role of native plants and the difference between native, non-native, and invasive non-native species.

"Native" describes a species living in the area where it is found naturally. "Non-native" or "exotic" describes species that are present in areas where they do not naturally occur.

Because every plant is native to some geographic area, it only becomes non-native when it is "out of place," found outside the area where it originated. Humans brought many non-native plants to new locations for use as ornamentals, such as lilacs and tulips, and as food crops, such as corn and soybeans. Other non-native plants, such as leafy spurge, were accidentally introduced by people to new locations.

leafy spurge

While many non-native plants are not harmful, some, termed invasive non-native, become serious ecological pests. These plants easily spread to native habitats and displace native species because they have competitive advantages and no natural biological controls to keep them in check. Invasive non-native plants provide little benefit to wildlife because native animals are adapted to use native plants, not the foreign invaders.

A residential lawn provides little wildlife habitat, has shallow roots that don't stabilize soil, and demands artificial inputs for its maintenance, such as fertilizing and mowing. A diversity of native plants will naturally provide better wildlife habitat, protect and build soil, and filter polluted runoff through the soil.

Successful shoreland projects are a result of protecting and restoring ecologically appropriate native species and eliminating invasive non-native species.

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