GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Which plants changed Minnesota and transformed how we live today?

That was the big question behind a public education campaign led by the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. U of M Horticulture professor Mary Meyer spearheaded the initiative, partnering with the Arboretum, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) and U of M Extension.

After considering more than 100 different plants nominated by the public from early February through April 15, 2012, a panel of experts* met to determine the final top ten. Plants were judged by their impact – both positive and negative – in six areas: environmental; economic or industrial; cultural/spiritual; historical; sustenance; and landscape.

Drum roll! Without further ado, the top ten plants that changed Minnesota:

  1. American Elm
  2. Apple
  3. Alfalfa
  4. Corn
  5. Purple Loosestrife
  6. Soybeans
  7. Turf and Lawn Grass
  8. Wheat
  9. White pine
  10. Wild rice

The judges and the public were in agreement on seven of the plants: apple, alfalfa, corn, soybeans, wheat, white pine and wild rice. But the committee concluded that American elm, turfgrass, and purple loosestrife also have played a major role in the landscape of the state. Plants that didn’t make the list but that received a lot of discussions were buckthorn, Eurasian milfoil, hosta, grapes, potatoes and sugar beets.

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