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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - March 07, 2014

From: Grand Marais, MN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Edible Plants, Shrubs, Trees, Vines
Title: Edible forest garden for northern Minnesota
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am planning an edible forest garden for northern Minnesota. Can you suggest a list of plants that are native to this area. We are in zone 3a or 3b. Thank you!

ANSWER:

While we answer quite a few questions about edible plants, this member of the Mr. Smarty Plants Team was not familiar with the term "food forest." However, another member of the Team apparently was familiar with it, and here is his answer:

Previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on a "food forest" from California. Follow some of the links in it for more information.

Getting to more specific information on your part of the United States:

From examiner.com Minnesota Wild Flowers and Edible Plants

At the very bottom of this page, from our Native Plant Bibliography, are the titles of two books on your subject. Each title is a link to more information

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, propagation, and protection of plants native not only to North America but also to the area in which they are to be grown; in your case, Cook County MN. Although the plant lists we have seen are listed as "wild," that is not necessarily the same as native. We are going to take some ideas from from the list Minnesota Wild Flowers and Edible Plants; they specifically mention a number of different kinds of berries.

We are going to search in our Native Plant Database for members if the genus Fragaria (strawberry) and sort them by nativity to Minnesota. From Wikipedia: Fragaria   is a genus of flowering plants in the rose family, Rosaceae, commonly known as strawberries for their edible fruits.

Members of Genus Fragaria native to Northern Minnesota:

Fragaria vesca (Woodland strawberry)

Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry)

Next, we'll look at the rubus genus. Again from Wikipedia: Rubus is a large genus of flowering plants in the rose family, Rosaceae, subfamily Rosoideae. Raspberries, blackberries, and dewberries are common, widely distributed members of the genus.

Note that both the genus Rubus and Fragaria are members of the Family  Rosaceae.

Members of Genus Rubus native to Northern Minnesota:

Rubus arcticus (Arctic blackberry)

Rubus hispidus (Bristly dewberry)

Rubus odoratus (Purple flowering raspberry)

Rubus pubescens (Dwarf red blackberry)

Since you mentioned a "forest" we are wondering if you are considering trees with edible fruits or nuts. Three members of the Juglandaceae (walnut) family have species native to Minnesota:

Carya ovata (Shagbark hickory)

Juglans cinerea (Butternut)

Carya illinoinensis (Pecan) We think you should know we found this statement

about the time after one of these trees is planted before it begins to bear

fruit; the best period of production being between the ages of 75 to 225

years old. Alas, unless you already had one of these mature trees on your

garden site, we believe you will have to scratch that. Hopefully, you can now

go to the Native Plant Database and search for the names of plants native to

Michigan and follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to discover

its growing conditions, soil needs, etc.

 

From the Image Gallery


Woodland strawberry
Fragaria vesca

Virginia strawberry
Fragaria virginiana

Arctic blackberry
Rubus arcticus

Bristly dewberry
Rubus hispidus

Purple-flowering raspberry
Rubus odoratus

Dwarf red blackberry
Rubus pubescens

Pecan
Carya illinoinensis

Shagbark hickory
Carya ovata

Butternut
Juglans cinerea

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