University of Minnesota

The Arboretum Asks: Which Plants Changed Minnesota Forever?

February 7, 2012

Which plants changed Minnesota and transformed how we live today? The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum wants to know and is encouraging the public to nominate specific plant(s) for a state's Top 10 list.

It's all part of "10 Plants that Changed Minnesota: Growing Solutions to How the World Lives Today," a new initiative to build awareness of the crucial role plants play in nourishing and sustaining life on Earth. The program is being spearheaded by Mary Meyer, a professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Horticultural Science. She is the former interim director of the Arboretum.

"In asking for nominations, we hope to start conversations about plants, and their role in the historic and economic factors that changed the course of our state," said Meyer, who seeks to engage students from elementary through university levels, as well as the general public.

The Arboretum is a natural fit for this project. With its 1,137 acres of display gardens, collections and natural areas, it is a nationally known resource for horticultural and environmental information, research and public education. Its children's educational programs are extensive and well received. Its native plant communities include the Big Woods (maple and basswood forest) and restored prairie.

"We hope to start discussions in classrooms around the state that will encourage students to look at plants in a whole new holistic approach to learning," she continued. "We will continue and enliven the conversation online and through print media, as well as onsite visitor experiences at the Arboretum."

On the university level, the initiative will include Arboretum-based freshman and public seminars on the topic of historically significant plants and plants of the future. These will be implemented as part of the university's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences curriculum during the 2012-13 academic year, along with other educational activities sponsored by University of Minnesota Extension.

Nominations will be accepted through April 15 and may be entered via the Arboretum website at or in person at the Oswald Visitor Center. You can also enter by mail to: 10 Plants, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, 3675 Arboretum Dr., Chaska, MN 55318.  Kindergarten through eighth-grade schools or clubs who nominate plants will be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift certificate redeemable for Arboretum educational programs.  A VIP academic and community panel will determine the 10 most important plants from all the entries submitted.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, comprising 1,137 acres, is located in Chanhassen, Minn., on State Hwy 5, nine miles west of the intersection with I-494. The largest public garden in the Upper Midwest, the Arboretum is part of the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and is open 363 days a year. Admission is $9 adults; free for members and ages 15 and under.

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