Our region's geography supports a variety of vegetation types. The deciduous forests of the eastern United States, the conifer forests of Canada and the grasslands of the Great Plains all meet in Minnesota. The Twin Cities metro area lies in the middle of the transition zone between prairie and deciduous forest. Other specialized plant communities occur along the great rivers that converge here: the Mississippi, the Minnesota and the St. Croix.
Along Our Rivers
These specialized communities include floodplain forests, which normally stand high and dry above the river channels, but which are adapted to occasional torrents of spring flooding. Also along the Minnesota River are many acres of calcareous seepage fen. These unique communities are found only where groundwater has seeped through limestone, sometimes miles away over the bluffs, and is forced back up to the surface of the river valley below the bluffs. Many rare plant species grow only in this environment.
On Higher Ground
On higher ground, plant communities range from sunny, dry sand prairies to shady, moist maple-basswood forests. Between these extremes, oak trees are such a dominant component that they lend their name to oak savannas, oak woodlands and oak forests.
Restoring a Disturbed Site
When Great River Greening revegetates a disturbed area, these natural communities provide models for restoration. Clues from the local environment can indicate which communities are appropriate for a given place. Factors that influence vegetation include water (how far above or below the water table), soil (how quickly or slowly rainwater drains through) and degree of slope and aspect (facing the sunny south or the shady north).
Rejuvenated by Fire
Even under identical conditions, however, different communities can grow, depending on the frequency of fire. In Minnesota there is enough rainfall to support trees on even the driest soils, but the extensive open prairies of the past were maintained by fire. On moist soil, for example, mesic prairies will grow if fires pass through every few years. When fire occurs slightly less frequently, oak savanna predominates. Only with much less fire will an oak forest grow, and in its complete absence, a maple-basswood forest will develop.
The diversity of plant communities in the Twin Cities metro river valleys makes for interesting parks and natural areas where a wide variety of native plants can be seen in even very small areas.
Descriptions of Natural Plant Communities in the River Valleys (MS Word 162k)
East-central MN Species Lists
This report includes species lists for 31 native plant communities that occur in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area and were developed by Hannah Dunevitz of the Minnesota DNR and Cynthia Lane, formerly of Great River Greening and now with Ecological Strategies, LLC. The species lists were derived from vegetation plot data, now available for the first time. They can be used as reference lists for planning ecological restoration projects, and will also help with the identification and understanding of native plant communities.
Additional benefits include the introduction of the DNR’s revised native plant community classification system, lists of invasive exotic plants that occur in each community, and lists of rare plants that occur in each community. The text that accompanies the lists provides ample information about the new plant community classification and how to use the species lists.
Complete Species Lists for
Terrestrial and Palustrine Native Plant Communities
in East-central Minnesota (MS Word 1.12MB)
This document has a detailed explanation of the project and descriptions of native plant communities. Please read this before exploring the lists.
(All files below are .pdf unless noted)
Central Dry Oak-Aspen (Pine) Woodland (21KB)
Southern Dry-Mesic Oak (Maple) Woodland (59KB)
Central Mesic Hardwood Forest (Eastern) (25KB)
Southern Dry-Mesic Oak Forest (25KB)
Southern Mesic Maple-Basswood Forest (30KB)
Southern Mesic Oak-Basswood Forest (31KB)
Southern Wet-Mesic Hardwood Forest (.26KB)
Southern Floodplain Forest (38KB)
Southern Terrace Forest (23KB)
Northern Very Wet Ash Swamp (27KB)
Northern Wet Ash Swamp (22KB)
Northern Wet Cedar Forest (24KB)
Southern Wet Ash Swamp (27KB)
Southern Rich Conifer Swamp (29KB)
Northern Poor Conifer Swamp (18KB)
Northern Rich Alder Swamp (44KB)
Northern Wet Meadow/Carr, Sedge Meadow Type (27KB)
Northern Wet Meadow/Carr, Willow Dogwood Shrub Swamp (25KB)
Southern Seepage Meadow/Carr (28KB)
Northern Poor Fen (18KB)
Northern Rich Fen (Basin) (23KB)
Prairie Extremely Rich Fen (24KB)
Northern Mixed Cattail Marsh (41KB)
Northern Bulrush-Spikerush Marsh (42KB)
Southern Wet Prairie (28KB)
Southern Dry Prairie, Dry Sand-Gravel Prairie (Southern) Type (55KB)
Southern Dry Prairie, Dry Bedrock Bluff Prairie (Southern) Type (26KB)
Southern Dry Prairie, Dry Barrens Prairie (Southern) Type (48KB)
Southern Dry Savanna, Dry Sand-Gravel Oak Savanna (Southern) Type (27KB)
Southern Dry Savanna, Dry Barrens Oak Savanna (Southern) (54KB)
Southern Mesic Prairie (30KB)
All Species Lists (.xls 875KB)
There is also more information on native plant communities through the DNR's website at: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/npc
CONTACT INFORMATON FOR SPECIES LISTS
For more information about this project, or for hard copies of this report, contact:
Hannah Dunevitz Texler, Regional Plant Ecologist
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Ecological and Water Resources Division,
1200 Warner Road, Saint Paul, MN 55106
Cynthia Lane, Conservation Ecologist
Ecological Strategies, LLC
P.O. Box 3, Maiden Rock, WI 54750
Wayne Ostlie, Conservation Director
Great River Greening
35 West Water Street, Suite 201, Saint Paul, MN 55107