Minnesota Plants

Superdivision Embryophyta

Embryophyta (land plants) is a superdivision 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.


Riddell’s goldenrod




Plant Taxonomy


Three authoritative sources for plant taxonomy are ITIS, formerly Interagency Taxonomic Information System; NCBI, National Center for Biotechnology Information; and the APG IV system on the Angiosperm Phylogeny Website by the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT). Unfortunately, above the taxonomic rank of family, the three systems differ significantly.

A species page on ITIS includes a mostly complete taxonomic hierarchy in an indented format, named ranks from Kingdom to Variety, subordinate taxa, common names, and synonyms. Superfamily, subfamily, superorder, suborder, tribe, subgenus, and section are often missing in their listings. The listings are often out of date, not reflecting the latest taxonomic revisions. A species page on NCBI includes a complete taxonomy, the ranks separated by semicolons. A few ranks are named but most are labeled simply as “Clade”. Subordinate taxa, common names, and synonyms are not shown. The APG IV system stops at the Family rank. The Angiosperm Phylogeny Website search engine returns a single page of the taxonomic class that includes every family and subfamily, with a description of each. No complete taxonomy is shown. No genera or species are included.

MinnesotaSeasons follows ITIS for the most part. Taxonomy is updated if necessary. Intermediate ranks and rank common names from iNaturalist and Wikipedia are added when appropriate.


Distribution Maps


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.

  Range Map  
    red mulberry
    Range Map  
    red mulberry







Recent Additions

Japanese hedge parsley


Japanese hedge parsley (Torilis japonica) is native to Europe, Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. It was introduced in North America in 1917 and is now naturalized. In the United States it is widespread but sporadic in the east and in the Pacific Northwest. It is found in natural areas, including open woodlands, woodland edges, savannas, and thickets; and in disturbed sites, including pastures, roadsides, and railroads. It grows under partial sun to full shade, sometimes under full sun, in dry to moderately moist soil. It is considered an aggressively invasive weed here, where it can out-compete native species. Wisconsin lists it as Prohibited/Restricted Invasive - Eradicate! (their emphasis). In Minnesota it is not listed but there is a program to eradicate it in Dakota County parks.

Japanese hedge parsley can be 8 to 48 tall, but in Minnesota flowering plants are usually no more than 24 in height. In Minnesota it is a biennial, taking two years to complete its life cycle. In more southerly regions it is an annual. The stems are erect, grooved, and hairy, The leaves are fern-like, divided into three or five sections then divided again. They are covered with hairs both above and below. Tiny white flowers appear in a loose umbrella-like cluster at the end of the stem and the branches. The fruit is a small brown seed covered with hooked hairs that will stubbornly cling to any fabric.

  Japanese hedge parsley  

Inland serviceberry


Inland serviceberry (Amelanchier interior) is usually a large deciduous shrub, sometimes a small tree. It occurs only in a narrow range in eastern North America, from Nova Scotia and Maine, east to southern Ontario and Minnesota, and south to northern Illinois and Ohio. It is found in dry forests, fields, and thickets, and on hillsides, bluffs, and stream banks. It is sometimes also found in bogs. It grows under full or partial sun in moist to dry, sandy or sandy-loamy soil.

Inland serviceberry is somewhat variable in appearance, having characteristics intermediate between other serviceberries, and having a large range of lengths of flower stalks (pedicels), floral leaves (sepals), and petals. What is now defined as inland serviceberry may be hybrid swarm involving smooth serviceberry, low serviceberry, and/or roundleaf serviceberry.

Inland serviceberry is identified by the leaves, which are densely hairy below in the spring and become nearly hairless at maturity; the margins of the larger leaves, which have at least 27 teeth per side; and the ovary, which is densely hairy at the top.

  inland serviceberry  

Round-lobed hepatica


Round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa) is one of the first wildflowers to appear in Minnesota woodlands in the spring. In early April it can be identified by the rounded, purple, three-lobed leaves laying flat on the ground. These are leaves that have overwintered from the previous year. The name hepatica is Latin for liver, and refers to the shape and color of the leaves, which resemble the human liver.

By the time the flowers appear the overwintered leaves are dying back. The flowers have from 5 to 12 white, pale pink, or pale blue petal-like sepals (usually 6), up to 30 white stamens, and a green center.

After the flowers have bloomed new green leaves emerge from the base on densely hairy stalks. The leaves are divided into 3 lobes shallowly cut to near the middle of the blade. The lobes are rounded at the tip. When young they are densely hairy with long, soft, shaggy hairs. As they age they become hairless or almost hairless.

  round-lobed hepatica  
    Photo by Luciearl  



Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) is common and abundant shrub of northern wetlands. It occurs throughout northern Europe and Asia and northern North America. In Minnesota it occurs in the north-central and northeast regions south to the Metro region. It is found in open areas in bogs, marshes, swamps, and floodplains, and on riverbanks and lakeshores. It grows under full sun in acidic, nutrient-poor soils. It is the dominant shrub of dwarf shrub wetland communities.

Leatherleaf is a perennial, evergreen, dwarf shrub. It can be 8 to 60 tall but is usually no more than 40 in height. It often forms dense thickets. The stems have many stiff, wiry branches. The leaves often point upward from the stem. The leaf underside is densely covered with white or rust-colored scales. The inflorescence is an unbranched cluster of up to 20 small flowers hanging downward at the end of the stem and branches. The white, urn-shaped flowers appear from early May through mid-June. Flattened globe-shaped fruits ripen in the fall and remain on the plant through the winter.

    Photo by Luciearl  

Northern purple pitcherplant


Northern purple pitcherplant (Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea) is an easily recognized, long-lived, carnivorous plant. There are no other plants in Minnesota that even vaguely resemble it. It occurs in the United States from Maine to New Jersey west to Minnesota, in Washington State, and throughout southern Canada. It is found in bogs, fens, swamps and peatlands. It grows under full sun in sphagnum moss or in soil that has both peat and sand. It obtains most of its nutrients from captured insects. The soil it grows in is nutrient-poor and usually acidic, and cannot support many other plants. Individual plants can live up to 50 years in favorable conditions. However, its population has been declining due to habitat loss and possibly to nitrogen deposition from air pollution.

Northern purple pitcherplant rises on a radiating rosette of 6 to 10 leaves and a single flowering stem. It often forms dense clumps, sometimes floating masses at the edges of bog ponds and lakes. The leaves are modified into pitchers with an erect hood at the top and an orifice that is open to the sky, allowing it to collect rainwater. The inner surface of the hood is covered with numerous, stiff, downward-pointing hairs. The solitary flower is purplish-red and droops at the end of a long leafless stalk.

  northern purple pitcherplant  
Other Recent Additions

twinflower (Linnaea borealis ssp. americana)

liverleaf wintergreen (Pyrola asarifolia ssp. asarifolia)

pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata ssp. cisatlantica)

bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

American groundnut (Apios americana)

clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata)

goldmoss stonecrop (Sedum acre)

stringy stonecrop (Sedum sarmentosum)

wild calla (Calla palustris)

  wild calla  
    Photo by Luciearl  








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