Minnesota Plants

           
Subkingdom Embryophyta

Embryophyta (land plants) is a subkingdom of the kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants). Embryophytes are distinguished by having a life cycle that involves alternation of generations the ability to live on land. They include vascular plants, which are those organisms traditionally thought of as plants, as well as non-vascular plants, which include mosses, liverworts, and hornworts.

According to one estimate, there are 311,078 embryophyte species worldwide.

 

Rarity Status Update
   

On August 19, 2013, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released an updated list of endangered, threatened, and special concern species. (Two years later the DNR has still not updated the online interactive Rare Species Guide.) This is the first official update since 1996. Twenty-nine species were removed from the list, 180 species were added, and 91 species had their status changed. Species pages, destination pages, and plant lists on MinnesotaSeasons.com have updated with the new listings. The complete list can be downloaded in PDF format from the Minnesota DNR’s Rare Species Guide Web page.

Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), pictured at right, has been added to the list. Previously unlisted, the tree is now a special concern species.

  swamp white oak
  swamp white oak
   
 

Distribution Maps
 

Range Map

red mulberry
USDA PLANTS Database

 

 

Range Map

red mulberry
MinnesotaSeasons.com

Plant occurrence data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (PLANTS Database) includes only locations where a specimen has been collected by an herbarium. Rare species location data published by the Minnesota DNR is similarly constrained. Online sources of distribution data for plants in Minnesota rely on these two authorities. This results in published plant ranges that may be representative but are of necessity incomplete.

The distribution maps on MinnesotaSeasons.com are derived from multiple sources. Each map is accompanied with links indicating which sources were used in creating the map. Those sources include University of Minnesota Bell Herbarium, USDA PLANTS Database, and the Minnesota DNR Rare Species Guide. However, they also include online databases, such as the Minnesota State checklist of vascular plants (MnTaxa); Biota of North America Program (BONAP); Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS), and iNaturalist; and print resources, such as Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota and Native Orchids of Minnesota, both by Welby R. Smith; and Vascular Plants of Minnesota by Ownbey and Morley. The maps also include sightings by MinnesotaSeasons.com, and sightings by contributors to MinnesotaSeasons.com that have been verified by the inclusion of a photo sufficient to identify the species.

The distribution maps at the right show the occurrence of red mulberry in Minnesota as reported by PLANTS and by MinnesotaSeasons.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

Recent Additions

 
Wintergreen
   

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is a slow-growing, perennial, evergreen, 2 to 8 tall, dwarf shrub. It is common in most of its range from Maine to Minnesota and south along the Appalachian Mountains to Georgia. It is fairly common in northeast and northcentral Minnesota. It grows in dry or moist woodlands, in partial sun or light shade, in nutrient poor, acidic soil.

The upright stems of wintergreen are actually branches rising from a horizontal stem lying flat on the ground or buried just under the surface. Two to five shiny green leaves are crowded at the top of the stem, and one to three white flowers droop from the upper leaf axils. The flowers are replaced in September by bright red berry-like capsules. The leaves and berries are edible and have a minty, wintergreen fragrance and flavor.

Wintergreen contains the aromatic compound methyl salicylate. In the past, oil of wintergreen has been used as a natural flavor in chewing gum, candy, soft drinks, toothpaste, and snuff. Dried leaves have been used to make tea, giving it another common name “teaberry”. In large amounts oil of wintergreen is toxic. Today, methyl salicylate is produced artificially for commercial uses.

  wintergreen
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Poison sumac
   

Poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) is unfamiliar to most hikers because it grows in swamps, marshes, and wet meadows, places that most hikers avoid. In Minnesota, it is found only in nine east-central counties.

Poison sumac looks similar to distant relatives smooth sumac and staghorn sumac, neither of which are poisonous. Poison sumac is distinguished by the untoothed margins of its leaflets. Poison sumac looks nothing like its two closest relatives, eastern and western poison ivy. Eastern poison ivy is a vine with three leaves. Western poison ivy is a small shrub with three leaves. Poison sumac is a tall shrub or very small tree and has compound leaves with 7 to 13 leaflets.

The saps of poison sumac, western poison ivy, and eastern poison ivy all contain the allergenic urushiol. Not all people are allergic to urushiol, but most can become allergic if they are exposed to it. It usually takes 12 to 48 hours for a rash to develop on a previously sensitized person. In some individuals, a single exposure will cause a reaction. In these individuals, the rash will develop in seven to ten days. The lesions last 14 to 20 days. Rashes do not spread and are not contagious. Treatment can dry the blisters, reduce the swelling, and relieve the itching, but it will not speed the healing.

  bonfire moss
  Photo by Jaxon Lane
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Bonfire moss
   

There are 189 species of Funaria. Only two have been recorded in Minnesota. Bonfire moss (Funaria hygrometrica) is the most abundant species of Funaria and one of the most common and widespread mosses in the world. It frequently occurs in waste areas, and is especially common in recently burned areas and around campfire rings. It is also found in natural areas in swamps, fens, meadows, cattail marshes, and wet prairies. It grows in dense tufts and often forms extensive turfs. The tufts are soft to the touch.

The plant consists of a short leafy stem and a spore capsule at the end of a long slender stalk. The leaves are clustered at the top of the stem forming a rosette. They have only one layer of cells and are almost transparent. The stalks supporting the spore capsule nod at the tip. They readily absorb moisture from humid air, twisting as they do, and becoming entangled with other stalks. The spore capsules are relatively large and appear earlier in the year than those of most mosses. Spores are dispersed late spring to mid-summer.

  bonfire moss
  Photo by Luciearl
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Pin cherry
   

Pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) is a small, fast-growing, short-lived, deciduous tree. It is common from New England to the upper Midwest and across southern Canada, uncommon and scattered west of the Great Plains. It is common throughout Minnesota except for the southwest quarter.

Pin cherry reproduces mostly by root sprouts and often forms thickets. In forests, it rarely germinates, and when it does, the saplings rarely survive except in large openings with plentiful moisture and light. Seedlings mostly appear in a forest after heavy cutting, burning, or a blow down. They mature rapidly and live only 20 to 40 years.

Pin cherry can easily be mistaken for black cherry or American Plum. Unlike black cherry, the bark remains thin and smooth on mature trees; the leaves are yellowish-green, not dark green; the leaf tips are drawn out into a long thin point; and the inflorescence is an umbrella-shaped cluster of 2 to 7 flowers, not a 3 to 6 long cluster of 20 to 60 flowers. Unlike American plum, the branches do not have spines, and the inflorescence often has clusters of 5, 6, or 7 flowers.

  pin cherry
  Photo by Luciearl
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Japanese hop
   

Japanese hop (Humulus japonicus) is an invasive, prohibited noxious weed in Minnesota. It can form dense mats several feet deep covering and inhibiting the growth of all other vegetation. It is relatively new in the state. The first recorded sighting was in 1992. To date, it has been reported in just four counties in the southeastern corner of the state, and in Hennepin and Scott Counties in the metro area.

Japanese hop closely resembles the native common hop (Humulus lupulus). Japanese hop is distinguished by the leaf stalk that is as long or longer than the blade; the leaf blade that has 5, 7, or 9 lobes and is rough to the touch on the underside; the stiff hairs on the margins of the bracts on the fruiting structure; and the lack of stalked, yellowish glands on the fruiting bracts, anthers, and seed capsules. Also, unlike common hop, the fruiting structure is not fragrant when crushed, and it cannot be used for making beer.

  Japanese hop

Other Recent Additions
   

rough-fruit amaranth

solidstem burnet saxifrage

redwhisker clammyweed

roughseed clammyweed

sandyseed clammyweed

Louisiana bladderpod

  marsh bellflower
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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