The Twin Cities falls within the eastern broadleaf forest biome dominated by hardwood trees such as ash, oak, and maple. However, at one time, this area was dominated by prairie and savanna ecosystems and careful observers can still spot grasses, sedges, and flowers that hint at those original plant communities. Wetland plant species still tend to dominate marshy areas. And, of course, there are plants rooted in soils underlying more permanent water bodies, such as the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers and the lakes and ponds of the river floodplains. There are also invasive and exotic plant species that threaten those remaining pockets of natural plant communities.
Prairies are highly productive systems dominated by a few species of grass, but wildflowers provide great diversity. Most prairie and savanna species have deep roots to reach moist soils, even in time of drought and do well in warm springs and summers. Most prairie plants are extremely long-lived and are adapted to both frequent fires and grazing by herbivores.
The Twin Cities sit on the edge of prairie and eastern broadleaf forest. On a hot summer day, the cool shade of a forest is inviting, but plants that live here must have adaptations to cope with the lack of sun. Our area has some plant species that tend to live in upland forests and others in the lowland forests of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers floodplains.
Plants of the Rivers, Lakes, and Wetlands
Invasive Plant Species
Did You Know?
At Lake Onalaska, near LaCrosse WI, the Mississippi River is about 4 miles wide. The combination of water held behind Lock and Dam #7 and water held by damming the Black River form this broad reach of the Mississippi River.