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Recommended trees and plants for the Driftless Area in Minnesota

Map of woodlands of Minnesota, courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Today we're sharing our recommended trees and plants for the Rochester Plateau and Blufflands (region 9 on the map), also commonly referred to as the Driftless Area. 

You'll notice that many trees on this list are newcomers to Minnesota. These trees are predicted to have good migration potential, meaning they are not currently in the area but are predicted to do well if planted. As our climate becomes warmer and wetter, trees in states to our south and east are able to shift northward and should feel right at home in this far southeastern region of the state. 

One example is the lovely tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera. Also known as yellow-poplar, it is the state tree of Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, and is the only tree native to North America in the Liriodendron genus (which is in the magnolia family). Throughout the world its only cousin is Liriodendron chinense, the Chinese tulip tree. 

It’s worth noting that in addition to climate modeling and native plant community data, we considered tree health issues like oak wilt and emerald ash borer when making our recommendations. A benefit of choosing trees on the migration potential list is that they offer increased tree diversity, which can help create a resilient ecosystem and fill important ecological niches. 

As with any forest management decisions, we recommend consulting a forester or natural resource professional before planting, and that may be especially important if you’re considering any of these assisted migration species

The list of recommended plants includes many spring ephemerals and deer-resistant understory plants. The rich and diverse understory native to this region is well-positioned for Minnesota’s future climate if invasive species can be adequately managed. 

Recommended trees for the Rochester Plateau and Blufflands

Common name Scientific name Height Soil preference Light requirement
Box elder Acer negundo 50 ft. Adaptable, tolerates dry part shade, sun
Silver maple Acer saccharinum 80 ft. Adaptable, tolerates alkaline full sun
Sugar maple Acer saccharum 80 ft. Evenly-moist, well drained part shade, shade, sun
Blue beech Carpinus caroliniana 30 ft. Average to moist soil Part shade, Shade
Bitternut hickory Carya cordiformis 100 ft. Evenly-moist Full sun, Part sun
Pignut hickory Carya glabra 60 ft. Adaptable Full sun, Part sun
Pecan Carya illinoinensis 130 ft. Well drained Full sun
Black hickory Carya texana 140 ft. Adaptable, prefers evenly-moist Part shade
Mockernut hickory Carya tomentosa 80 ft. Good drainage, moist, occasionally dry Full sun, Part sun
Sugarberry Celtis laevigata 70 ft. Adaptable Full sun, part sun
Hackberry Celtis occidentalis 75 ft. Adaptable Full sun
Eastern redbud Cercis canadensis 30 ft. Evenly-moist, well-drained Full sun, Part sun
Common persimmon Diospyros virginiana 80 ft. Moist, well-drained, sandy Full sun
Honeylocust Gleditsia triacanthos 60 ft. Adaptable Full sun
Black walnut Juglans nigra 60 ft. Evenly-moist full sun
Yellow-poplar / tulip tree Liriodendron tulipifera 120 ft. Evenly-moist, well-drained Full sun
Osage-orange Maclura pomifera 60 ft. Adaptable Full sun
Blackgum Nyssa sylvatica 70 ft. Average moisture Full sun
Ironwood Ostrya virginiana 60 ft. Mixed, well-drained part shade, shade, sun
Slash pine Pinus elliottii 100 ft. Moist part shade
Virginia pine Pinus virginiana 40 ft. Well drained sun
Sycamore Platanus occidentalis 100 ft. Prefers fertile, adaptable Full sun
Cottonwood Populus deltoides 180 ft. Moist, sandy Full sun
White oak Quercus alba 100 ft. Well-drained to dry Full sun
Bur oak Quercus macrocarpa 80 ft. Adaptable sun
Northern red oak Quercus rubra 120 ft. Well drained sun
Post oak Quercus stellata 60 ft. Moist, well-drained, adaptable Full sun
Black oak Quercus velutina 60 ft. Moist to wet full sun
Sassafras Sassafras albidum 60 ft. Adaptable Full sun, Part shade
Chittamwood / gum bumelia Sideroxylon lanuginosum 60 ft. Evenly-moist, Well-drained Full sun, Part shade
Eastern hemlock Tsuga canadensis 70 ft. Well-drained Full sun
American elm Ulmus americana 80 ft. Average to wet soil Part shade, sun

Recommended plants for the Rochester Plateau and Blufflands

Common name Scientific name Height Soil preference Light requirement
White snakeroot Ageratina altissima 1–4 ft. medium-wet to medium-dry partial shade, shade
Hog peanut Amphicarpaea bracteata 1–5 ft. moist part shade, shade
Virginia spring beauty Claytonia virginica 5 in. moist part shade
Gray dogwood Cornus racemosa 12 ft. evenly-moist sun-part shade
American hazel Corylus americana 8 ft. moist-dry sun-shade
Pointed-leaved tick trefoil Desmodium glutinosum 2 ft. medium, dry part shade, shade
False rue anemone Enemion biternatum 16 in. rich loamy part shade, shade
White trout lily Erythronium albidum 6 in. moist part shade
Yellow trout lily Erythronium americanum 6 in. moist part shade, shade
Wild geranium Geranium maculatum 12 in. medium, medium-dry part shade, shade
Woodland sunflower Helianthus strumosus 3 ft. medium-wet to medium-dry part shade, sun
Appendaged waterleaf Hydrophyllum appendiculatum 2 ft. medium part shade
Virginia waterleaf Hydrophyllum virginianum 2 ft. medium part shade, shade
Spotted touch-me-not Impatiens capensis 4 ft. wet-medium shade, sun
Wood nettle Laportea canadensis 40 in. moist part shade, shade
Virginia bluebells Mertensia virginica 30 in. moist part shade, shade
Clayton’s sweet cicely Osmorhiza claytonii 2 ft. medium-wet to medium-dry part shade, shade
Aniseroot Osmorhiza longistylis 2 ft. moist part shade, shade
Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia 90 ft. average - moist part shade, shade, sun
Woodbine Parthenocissus vitacea 70 ft. average - moist shade-sun
Virginia knotweed Persicaria virginiana 4 ft. moist part shade, shade
Blue phlox Phlox divaricata 18 in. moist part shade, shade
Chokecherry Prunus virginiana 25 ft. dry-moist shade-sun
Prickly gooseberry Ribes cynosbati 4 ft. mesic-dry shade - sun
Missouri gooseberry Ribes missouriense 6 ft. dry - average part shade, shade, sun
Red raspberry Rubus idaeus 4 ft. moist to dry part shade, sun
Tall coneflower Rudbeckia laciniata 2–10 ft. moist part shade, sun
Canadian snakeroots Sanicula canadensis 1–4 ft. loamy part shade, shade
Gregarious black snakeroots Sanicula odorata 1–3 ft. mesic part shade, shade
Greenbrier Smilax tamnoides 10–30 ft. average to moist soil part shade, shade
Elm-leaved goldenrod Solidago ulmifolia 2 ft.–4 ft. dry part shade, shade
Stinging nettle Urtica dioica 1–6 ft. moist, wet shade, sun
Stemless blue violets Viola sororia and V. missouriensis 3–8 in. Medium-Wet, Medium shade,sun
Wild grape Vitis riparia 75 in. average - moist sun - part shade
Prickly ash Zanthoxylum americanum 15–20 ft. versatile sun - shade
Heart-leaved alexanders Zizia aptera 1–3 ft. moist part shade, shade

Author: Angela Gupta, Extension forester

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