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BWSR Featured Plant

Each month, BWSR posts a featured plant on this page. To sign up for monthly “Featured Plant” messages that include updates on current restoration and native vegetation topics go to the “BWSR Media Center” section of the BWSR Home page.


Current Plant:


Wild Bergamot

Virginia Mountain Mint February 2014- State agency pollinator conservation efforts continue to make progress in Minnesota. With abundant nectar and dense clusters of flowers, Virginia Mountain Mint provides excellent habitat for honeybees, native bees, and other pollinators.



Previous Species:

  • Wild Bergamot- January 2014
    Also known as beebalm, monarda, and horsemint, wild bergamot is a showy perennial flower that is widely used for conservation plantings, as well as perennial gardens. Learn about what it can aggressively compete with.
  • Frost Aster- December 2013
    Many asters can bloom into October and even November when other plants have gone dormant, providing important energy reserves for pollinators. Our featured plant, "Frost Aster" is mainly found in southern Minnesota but it spreads by wind and can aggressively colonize disturbed sites. As a result, it will likely expand its range with climate change and other landscape disturbances.
  • Sunflower- November 2013
    The annual sunflower is an adaptable species with the ability to grow in rather disturbed, nutrient poor soils along roadways, railroad tracks and brownfields. It can play an important ecological role in these areas by providing pollen and nectar for pollinators, carbohydrate rich seeds for birds and animals, decreasing compaction with its taproot, and in some cases removing pollutants from the soil. The species has been bred into the larger and more robust sunflowers that are grown in gardens and agricultural fields and used for cooking oil, bird seed, biofuel and as a human food source. Outside of cultivation these varieties can revert back to wild plant types over several generations, often relocating and adding diversity to degraded landscapes.

  • Showy Goldenrod- October 2013
    As our days become shorter and temperatures begin to drop, pollinators remain busy searching for rich sources of pollen to sustain them and their offspring through winter. Being active late in the year, goldenrod species play a key role in providing nectar sources into October. With around 15 species in Minnesota, goldenrods grow in a wide variety of habitats from wet to dry and from full sun to shade. They also range from somewhat weedy to somewhat conservative, so we commonly plant some species while there are others that we just expect to show up on their own (such as Canada goldenrod). Our featured plant, Showy goldenrod, is one of our most commonly planted species due to its bright yellow flowers and ability to handle dry conditions. It also grows in clumps and doesn't become overly dominant in plantings. This time of year, most showy goldenrod plants will be covered in a variety of insects including bees, wasps, native flies and beetles. These insects that rely on the plants for food in turn can be an important food source for migrating songbirds.
  • Marsh Hedge Nettle- September 2013
    The mint family has a large number of native species that add diversity and ecological function to Minnesota Landscapes. Many of them seem to just show up on their own on project sites, welcome additions to help meet project diversity goals. Marsh hedge nettle is one of those species that seems to appear after sitting dormant in the seedbank for many years, just waiting for the right hydrology conditions. It even has the gall to sometimes push its way up through reed canary grass or cattails. A number of other species look like Marsh Hedge Nettle and this months featured plant article makes some comparisons to similar species.
  • Sneezeweed- August 2013
    During August there is a wide variety of species that provide important food sources for pollinators (bergamot, cup plant, hedge nettle, liatris, etc.); some that have been in bloom since June or July and some that are just starting to flower. Sneezeweed will soon be in bloom in parts of Minnesota and will flower into October. It is a versatile plant that has an added advantage of being toxic to grazers - so its populations are not thinned out by deer (like many other forbs) and it thrives in pastures and on the edge of waterways that are part of conservation grazing efforts. It is a favorite species for our wet meadow restoration projects as its seeds germinate in mineral or organic soils and do not require cold moist stratification, allowing them to germinate with spring seeding without the need of going through a winter to break dormancy.

  • Large-Flowered Penstemon – July 2013
    The Large-flowered Penstemon (Penstemon grandiflorus) is another species in our series on plants beneficial to pollinators. Its striking, tubular flowers are used by a wide range of native bees. This species of Penstemon was not set-back by last year’s drought, as it often benefits from decreased competition resulting from dry conditions or early season grazing. There are four other Penstemon species considered native to Minnesota including Penstemon albidis, Penstemon gracilis, Penstemon pallidus, and Penstemon digitalis (though this species may have been introduced from further south). Penstemon gracilis (Slender Beardtongue) is a relatively widespread species that is sometimes included as part of restoration seed mixes.
  • Minnesota Milkweeds – June 2013
    Milkweeds play a key role in wetlands, prairies, savannas and forests in Minnesota. The genus (Asclepias) is particularly important as a nectar and larval food source for a wide range of insect species. The best known example is the monarch butterfly whose larvae appear to feed only on milkweeds. Milkweeds have a unique pollination mechanism where pollen grains are enclosed in waxy sacs called “pollina” that attach to the legs of butterflies, moths, bees, ants and wasps and are then deposited in another milkweed flower if they step into a specialized anther opening. Most milkweeds are toxic to vertebrate herbivores due to cardiac glycosides that are in their plant cells. In addition to supporting insect populations, milkweeds also provide other landscape benefits due to their extensive root systems (sometimes deep roots, sometimes horizontal) that decrease compaction, add organic material to the soil and improve water infiltration.
  • American Basswood – May 2013
    American basswood is an important species for conservation efforts as it provides many landscape functions including habitat and food sources for a variety of bird and animals, shoreline stabilization, urban and stream cooling, carbon sequestration, and soil enrichment. Basswood is our featured plant, as we are covering a series of species this spring and summer that can play a role in proving habitat for declining pollinator populations. Basswood is a rich nectar source for native pollinators and honey bees, and may facilitate more honey production per acre than any other species. Several other native trees and shrubs such as prairie plum, serviceberries, viburnums, dogwood, chokecherry, black cherry, pussy willow and red maple are other woody species that are important for native pollinators. The loss of wood lots and tree lines along fields has decreased the abundance of some of these woody plants, increasing the importance of replanting these species in their native range.
  • Golden Alexanders – April 2013
    Golden Alexanders is a widespread species in Minnesota found in a variety of plant communities. Its ability to grow in a range of moisture conditions and light levels has made it a common species in natural areas and old fields across Minnesota, and a species that is commonly included in seed mixes. The species is important for pollinators because it is widespread, starts blooming early in the season (May) and has a long bloom period well into June. The genus Zizia was named for the German botanist Johann Baptist Ziz; aurea is Latin for "golden".
  • Minnesota Thistles – March 2013
    Mention thistles and many people's thoughts go right to the familiarly pesky Canada Thistle or the even more prickly Bull Thistle. But there are actually 9 species of thistle in Minnesota, five of which are native, and a tenth species with the potential to show up from neighboring Wisconsin (the non-native European Marsh Thistle). With more than half of our thistles being native, and with a few non-native species being dropped from the noxious weed list in the last few years, it pays to know which is which.
  • Narrow-Leaf Coneflower - February 2013
    Echinacea angustifolia is a wildflower native to the prairies of western Minnesota. Narrow-leaf coneflower has a long history of medicinal uses by Native Americans of the plains and early settlers, and is widely available as a medicinal herb today. It also provides many ecological functions in native plant communities. Factors including habitat loss, landscape fragmentation, and overharvesting have led to a significant decline in numbers of the species and renewed efforts to protect existing populations and establish the species in new restoration projects...
  • Glossy Buckthorn - November 2012
    Similar to the more widespread common buckthorn, glossy buckthorn was brought to the United States from Eurasia for use as an ornamental shrub. The species has high seed viability (lasting in the soil two or more years) and can form thickets that create significant competition for native plants...
  • Virginia Wild Rye - October 2012
    Virginia wild rye is a perennial cool-season native bunchgrass. It is used for a wide variety of conservation projects as it is fast growing, a good stabilizing species and it can grow in partial shade...
  • Tussock Sedge - August 2012
    Tussock sedge is a species that is found in a wide variety of Minnesota wetland plant communities and is often a dominant plant in sedge meadows...
  • Wild Lupine - May 2012
    Wild lupine is a showy perennial plant that grows on dry, sandy soils in prairies and savannas. The species has been a focus of planting efforts
  • Northern White Cedar - April 2012
    Northern white cedar is a slow growing evergreen found in coniferous bogs, lakeshores and streambanks of northeast Minnesota...
  • Northern Wild Rice - March 2012
    Wild rice (Minnesota's State Grain) has great significance culturally, economically, and ecologically to Minnesota...


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