A visual encyclopedia of northern U.S. wildflowers

Afton State Park

Located along the lower St. Croix River, this exurban state park is notable for large expanses of prairie in various states of restoration and the steep, heavily wooded river bluffs.

Artist's Point, Grand Marais, MN

This rocky, damp, and exposed spit of land projects into the cold waters of Lake Superior and forms the eastern side of Grand Marais' harbor. About half is bare rock and the remainder is covered with low stunted evergreens, moss, lichens, hardy flowering plants, and frequent mushrooms.

Badlands National Park

This national park in the Terres Mauvaises of central South Dakota is more arid then most areas of Minnesota, and supports a range of desert species.

Battle Creek Regional Park

A county park just southeast of downtown Saint Paul with a rather extended trail system. Like many urban areas, it contains a number of weedy species.

Beaver Bay, MN

Beaver Creek Valley State Park

This state park lies in the Driftless Area of southeastern Minnesota. It's centered around a spring-fed creek that forms a deep, narrow valley in the limestone bedrock. The valley floor near the creek is lush for most of the season, and the slopes support a mesic woodland rich in spring and summer species.

Boot Lake SNA

Cascade River State Park

Chimney Rock SNA

Devil Track Gorge, Cook County, MN

This northeastern Minnesota river forms a deep gorge near its outlet into Lake Superior, carved by the yearly spring snowmelt. By the time I explored it in August of 2010, the water levels were low enough not only to permit access to the canyon, but to expose shingle beds that supported many species with earlier flowering dates. See the story of my excursion.

Falls Creek SNA

This SNA surrounds Falls Creek as it makes its way down the bluffs of the Lower St. Croix River. It features an abundance of spring ephemerals and a freshwater spring in the lower section.

Forestville State Park

Located in karst terrain in the Driftless Area of southeastern Minnesota, this state park includes a underground section called Mystery Cave. The rich woodlands near Forestville Creek and several springs support a wide variety of species in the spring and early summer.

Frontenac State Park

Frontenac is located on the bluffs overlooking the wide spot in the Mississippi River known as Lake Pepin. It includes not only blufftop prairies and meadows, but also heavily wooded, shady slopes down to the river.

Glen Park, River Falls, WI

An urban park in the college town of River Falls, Wisconsin. It adjoins the Kinnickinnic River and a couple of its feeder streams, and is a popular put-in location for paddling tours of the river. It contains the usual wide variety of plants expected in urban areas.

Gooseberry Falls State Park

The most popular park on Minnesota's North Shore. Its location right on the lakeshore leads to a wide variety of different microclimates, and subsequent diversity.

Governor Knowles SF

Grey Cloud Dunes SNA

This plot of land on a sandy river terrace just south of the Twin Cities used to be owned by an oil company, but ended up being sold to the state for inclusion in the Scientific and Natural Area program. It hosts a wide variety of species, both common and uncommon, thanks to the variety of soils and relatively undisturbed state.

Helen Allison Savanna SNA

This is an outstanding oak savanna area smack in the middle of the Anoka Sand Plain.

Hovland, MN

The upper portion of Minnesota's Arrowhead has quite a bit less private property directly on the lakeshore than there is farther south, so there are many more spots to pull off the highway and walk out onto the rocky beaches.

Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

Joseph Tauer was a southern Minnesota farmer who may well have been called "a little off" in his day. He insisted on keeping large areas of his property in a natural state, and plowed the land he did cultivate with a team of horses well into the 1970s. Before he died, he transferred 160 acres to the state SNA program and left us with a wonderful legacy in this otherwise heavily agricultural area.

Judge Magney State Park

Kasota Prairie

Kasota Prairie is owned and administered by the private corporation Unimin, which permits public access to this terrace above the Minnesota River. It has a short trail loop around a pond and species typical of a disturbed tallgrass prairie, including an alarming amount of ragweed.

Kasota Prairie SNA

A few hundred meters south of Kasota Prairie, this 40-acre plot of land is a typical open river blufftop, with some nice prairie plants and grasses mixed in with some aliens and invasives.

Lake Elmo Park Reserve

This large park lies just west of the Twin Cities and encompasses a combination of open uplands, deciduous woods, and a dozen or so ponds and lakes. A few nice prairie plants can be found here, mixed in with more hardy and opportunistic species. Spotted Knapweed is currently a major problem.

Lost Valley SNA

This SNA lies in a mostly agricultural area southeast of the metro area. It's hemmed in by corn and soybean fields, but is undergoing active restoration. On more than one visit, I stopped to talk with local volunteers who were helping with various restoration projects.

Magnetic Rock Trail, Cook County, MN

This small hiking trail far up the Gunflint Trail in the northeastern corner of Minnesota leads through classic boreal forest to the Canadian border at Magnetic Lake. At least, it did until the Ham Lake fire burned through in 2007. Most large trees are now gone from the area. The opening up has affected the makeup of the ground cover and even improved the view the Magnetic Rock, a 25-foot tall glacial erratic made of magnetite that's sufficient to disturb compass needles in its vicinity, even more impressive.

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

Minneapolis, MN

Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis, MN

Minnehaha Park surrounds the creek of the same name as it empties into the Mississippi River in the middle of the Twin Cities metro area. Trails follow the creek into a steep-sided valley, and the moist streambanks host a variety of plants.

Minneopa State Park

Nerstrand State Park

This 1200-acre park preserves an outstanding area of Big Woods, which was one of the dominant environments in east-central Minnesota at the time of settlement. The relatively flat uplands and ravine sides are covered with climax maple-bassword forest, with a more variable mixture near Prairie Creek. Nerstrand is a prime location for spring ephemerals, which bloom on the forest floor March through May before the canopy leafs out.

Ottawa Bluffs Conservation Area

This Nature Conservancy-owned plot lies on the steep bluffs of the Minnesota River south of Le Sueur and is easy to miss - it's only marked by a nondescript wooden sign. It includes a wet ravine going up from the pulloff, and oak savanna on the bluff sides to the north and south.

Piedmont Park, Duluth, MN

Piedmont Park lies adjacent to Skyline Drive, partway up the hills on the west side of Duluth. It includes a good system of hiking trails and several miles of singletrack mountain bike trail. Numerous rock outcrops poke out through mixed deciduous forest to produce a wide variety of microenvironments.

Pierce County, Wisconsin

Pincushion Mountain

Pine Bend SNA

Rice Lake NWR

River Terrace SNA

This SNA (not surprisingly) lies on a river terrace above the Cannon River in southeastern Minnesota, bounded by a bend in the river on two sides and the Cannon Valley Trail on the remaining side. The base of the terrace is fairly stocked with opportunistics, and the top is populated with oak and sumac, but the thin-soiled slopes host a few less common species.

Riverbend Nature Center

Savanna Portage State Park

A large state park about an hour west of Duluth, Savanna Portage contains a number of lakes, swamps, and bogs in additional to the typical mixed deciduous forest atop the edge of a glacial moraine.

Seminary Fen SNA

Seven Mile Creek County Park

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

This state park lies on the north shore of Lake Superior, and includes the usual wide variety of climates for that area, from cold exposed rocks on the lakeshore to moist riverbanks to pine-dominated boreal forest.

Spring Creek Valley SNA

St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

St. Croix Savanna SNA

St. Croix Savanna SNA is easy to miss, restricted as it is to a narrow ridge south of Bayport, Minnesota. The only available parking is on the shoulder of a major highway, but up on the ridge there's very little distraction from the thin-soiled, south-facing dry prairie environment. The top of the ridge includes typical second-growth hardwood forest and an open-to-canopy transition zone.

St. Paul, MN

Standing Cedars Land Conservancy

Standing Cedars Land Conservancy is, as far as I can tell, a rare and unique location - a 1000+ acre conservancy area that is privately, but locally, owned and managed. Although it suffers to some degree from the usual invasives, its position adjacent to the federally protected St. Croix river valley provides a buffer against encroachment, by humans or otherwise.

Sugarloaf Cove

Sugarloaf Cove Natural Area lies along the shore of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota, and exhibits many hardy species that live in those rocky, exposed environments.

Sugarloaf Cove SNA

Sunfish Lake Park

The Landing

Trout Lake, Cook County, MN

Trout Lake is representative of the many thousand clear, pristine lakes in the northeastern part of Minnesota. In particular, these plants were growing in a marshy, shallow bay just off the northwest corner of the lake.

Wild River State Park

Wild River State Park lies along the middle St. Croix River about 60 miles from the Twin Cities metro area. It includes river floodplains, hardwood bluffs and streambanks, and oak savanna. Aerial photographs still show the agriculturally based clearing of the Amador Prairie, but more than three decades of state management have made large steps towards restoring the native vegetation.

Wilderness County Park

A fairly large county park lying along the banks of the Cannon River between Northfield and Faribault.

William O'Brien State Park

This large state park in the St. Croix Valley lies close to the Twin Cities metro area. Although many areas have invasive and opportunistic plants, its areas of prarie restoration and diverse environments guarantee a wide variety of species.

Willow River State Park

This state park lies in western Wisconsin, and is large enough to support a variety of different environments.

Woldsfeld Woods SNA

Wolsfeld Woods SNA

Wolsfeld Woods surrounds a small lake of the same name in the glacial terrain on the west side of the Twin Cities metro area. The Big Woods environment has been largely preserved and supports a variety of spring wildflowers.

Wood-Rill SNA

This tract of Big Woods was owned for many years by the Dayton family, of department store fame, before being transferred to the state for preservation. It's a haven for spring wildflowers.