North Dakota Top Ten
I recently read in the Minneapolis Tribune about a contest to name which ten plants have changed Minnesota the most and transformed how Minnesotans live today. The contest was sponsored by the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
Over a 100 plants were suggested, and a panel of experts selected the top ten species which will also serve as topics of educational efforts at the arboretum during coming year. The top ten species selected, in alphabetical order, were alfalfa, American elm, apple, corn, purple loosestrife, soybeans, turf/lawn grass, wheat, white pine, and wild rice.
I couldn’t help but wonder what plants would make the top ten list for North Dakota. Wheat and alfalfa would certainly make our list too. American elm, our state tree would likely make the list as well. Green ash has also been an important tree in our state.
At least one native grass would likely make the list, perhaps western wheatgrass, which is our state grass. Another native grass that may make the list is blue grama, a warm season short grass that is a dominant species in many pastures.
Unfortunately, however, several introduced invasive species would likely make the list: leafy spurge for example, and perhaps Canada thistle. Most people may not initially think of smooth brome and Kentucky bluegrass, but they certainly have been important plants in this regard, and both are introduced species. Kentucky bluegrass, of course is the grass we so diligently culture in our yards, parks, baseball diamonds, football fields, and golf fairways. And we have planted smooth brome on virtually every square inch of road right of ways across the state, as well as many other areas. However, perhaps the most significant aspect of smooth brome and Kentucky bluegrass is that these two species have invaded native prairie all over the state and are now dominants in many if not most areas. As a result, native prairie, in the true sense, may soon be a thing of the past.
What plants would be in your top ten list? Let us know by posting your selections on Prairie Public Broadcasting’s Facebook page. Whatever your selections, this is a good reminder of the importance of plants in our lives and culture. Our native plants are certainly important species, as are the major crops. But I am worried about the many changes caused by introduced invasive species. Most of those changes we could do without!
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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