Extension Logo
Extension Logo
University of Minnesota Extension

Recommended trees and plants for the Central Lakes area of Minnesota

Map of Minnesota divided into 10 areas.
Map of woodlands of Minnesota, courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Last month we shared our recommended trees and plant lists for rewilding your backyard woods in East Central Minnesota (also known as the Anoka Sand Plains, Big Woods, and St. Paul-Baldwin Plains and Moraines subsections). 

Today we’re sharing tree and plant lists for the Chippewa Plains and Pine Moraine-Outwash Plains ecoregion— area 3 on the map.

As a reminder, all of the trees in our recommendation lists are: 1) native to Minnesota or nearby in the Eastern Deciduous Forest, 2) climate resilient, and 3) beneficial to the little creatures that are the base of the ecosystem. 

Forests in transition

You may be surprised at some of the recommended tree species. You may ask why are our native pines and quaking aspen not on this list, yet we’re recommending shagbark hickory. Aren’t pines and aspen very common to the landscape in this region?

These recommendations, which may be unsettling at first glance, fall into the larger conversation on climate adaptation. Climate adaptation practices can look very different depending on the goals and objectives of the landowner and manager. Climate adaptation practices fall on a spectrum of three approaches and differ based on the desired future conditions of the forest: Resistance, Resilience, and Transition.

We’ll expand more on each of these concepts in an upcoming article. These recommended tree and plant lists fall under Transition, in which assisted migration is one of many management tools that we use to create healthy future forests that will thrive in the future climate. 

Assisted migration

Assisted migration involves moving species that are predicted to perform well in a future climate to new locations based on their predicted future range. Assisted migration is only one of many climate adaptations that natural resource managers can use to manage forests for long-term health and productivity under a changing climate.

We highly recommend working with a natural resource professional to determine if assisted migration is the best option for your land and your goals.

Luckily, you have more flexibility to experiment with planting trees in your backyard woods compared to people with larger acreages. You can dedicate extra care to the assisted migration species you plant in your backyard woods, monitor how well they perform during our cold winters and stormy summers, and manage those trees appropriately. (The USDA Forest Service has this helpful article if you want to learn more about assisted migration.)

One last reminder: If you have a woodlot between 1-20 acres, want to rewild your backyard woodland, and live in area 3 on the map, these tree and plant lists are for you. If you don’t live in this area or have more acreage, stay tuned for future lists for the rest of the state and for woodlands larger than 20 acres. 

Recommended trees

Scroll down for the full list.
Common name Scientific name Height Width Soil requirements Light requirements
Basswood Tilia americana 90' 50' Adaptable, Prefers evenly-moist, Tolerates dry, Tolerates sandy soil Full sun
Black oak Quercus velutina 60' 50' Prefers droughty soil Full sun
Black walnut Juglans nigra 60' 75' Prefers evenly-moist Full sun
Bur oak Quercus macrocarpa 75' 80' Adaptable Full sun
Chokecherry Prunus virginiana 25' 20' Adaptable Full sun
Eastern hemlock Tsuga canadensis 40' 25' Prefers well-drained Full sun
Honeylocust Gleditsia triacanthos 60' 50' Adaptable, Prefers evenly-moist, Tolerates alkaline, Tolerates dry, Tolerates sandy soil Full sun
Ironwood (hophornbeam) Ostrya virginiana 65' 25' Prefers well-drained, Tolerate alkaline, Tolerates dry Part sun
Juneberry (serviceberry) Amelanchier spp. 30' 15' clay, does well in medium to course texture part shade, sun
Mockernut hickory Carya tomentosa 85' 60' Good drainage, moist, occasionally dry Full sun, Part sun
Northern red oak Quercus rubra 80' 50' Tolerates dry Full sun, Part sun
Pignut hickory Carya glabra 60 - 80' 25 - 40' Adaptable Full sun, Part sun
Post oak Quercus stellata 50 - 75' 40 - 70' Moist, well-drained, adaptable Full sun
Red maple Acer rubrum 55' 45' Prefers acidic, Prefers evenly-moist Full sun, Part sun
Red mulberry Morus rubra 25 - 80' 25 - 35' Moist to dry Part shade, shade, sun
Shagbark hickory Carya ovata 80' 35' dry sandy or rocky soil Full sun, Part sun
Sugar maple Acer saccharum 80' 60' Prefers evenly-moist, Prefers well-draine Full sun, Part sun
Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua 60 - 100' 40 - 50' Well-drained soils Full sun, Part sun
Sycamore Platanus occidentalis 75-100' 75-100' Prefers fertile soils, tolerates clay, sand, loam, alkaline and wet soils Full sun
White oak Quercus alba 75' 80' Prefers well-drained, Tolerates dry Full sun

Recommended plants

Scroll down for the full list.
Common name Scientific name Plant type Height Width Soil requirements Light requirements
Canada mayflower Maianthemum canadense Herbaceous Plant 6" 8" Prefers acidic, Prefers high organic matter part shade, shade
Wood anemone Anemone quinquefolia Herbaceous Plant 4 - 8" 1" Prefers humus-rich soil shade
Pale bellwort Uvularia sessilifolia Herbaceous Plant 4 - 12" Moist, good drainage part shade
Common strawberry Fragaria virginiana Herbaceous Plant 12" 12" Prefers organically rich, sandy loams Full sun, part sun
Hoary puccoon Lithospermum canescens Herbaceous Plant 6 - 18" mesic to dry, loamy to sandy part shade, sun
Mountain rice grass (rough-leaved rice grass) Oryzopsis asperifolia Herbaceous Plant 10 - 26" alkaline, average to dry rocky soil part shade, sun
Common yarrow Achillea millefolium Herbaceous Plant 36" 24" Adaptable, Prefers well-drained, Tolerates alkaline, Tolerates dry part shade, sun
Early meadow-rue Thalictrum dioicum Herbaceous Plant 36" 24" rich, well drained soils Full sun, Part sun
Large-flowered bellwort Uvularia grandiflora Herbaceous Plant 16" 9" Prefers alkaline, Prefers evenly-moist, Prefers loam, Prefers well-drained Full sun, Part shade, Part sun
Large-leaved aster Eurybia macrophylla Herbaceous Plant 60" 24" Adaptable part shade, shade
Prairie willow Salix humilis Shrub 1 - 10' 4' Average to dry sandy or gravelly soil Sun
Smooth wild rose Rosa blanda Shrub 5' 4' Prefers evenly-moist, Prefers loam, Tolerates dry Full sun, Part sun
Downy arrowwood Viburnum rafinesquianum Shrub 6' 6' tolerates alkaline, dry, well-drained, moist part shade
American hazelnut Corylus americana Shrub 8' 8' Prefers evenly-moist, usually found on drier sites compared to beaked hazelnut Full sun, Part sun
Beaked hazelnut Corylus cornuta Shrub 12' 9' Prefers medium textured soil, usually found on moister sites compared to American hazelnut Full sun

Author: Anna Stockstad, Extension forestry educator

Page survey

© 2024 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.