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May Article

Benefits of Native Trees and Shrubs in Your Restoration


American Cranberry Fruit.

Forbs, grasses, sedges and rushes make up a large majority of the native plants in our restoration projects.  However, a group of plants that should not be overlooked are native trees and shrubs.  These woody plants play a vital role in ecosystem health, function, and diversity.  They provide key habitat, food, and shelter for a variety of wildlife. Trees and shrubs also act as natural windbreaks in open landscapes, and cast a canopy of shade where diverse woodland plant communities can thrive.  Additionally, these woody species have complex and sturdy root systems that do an exceptional job of holding soil in place, combating erosion, and reducing soil compaction.


River Bulrush tree with multiple trunks.

How does a tree differ from a shrub?

There is no accepted scientific definition to distinguish a tree from a shrub.  However, a tree usually has just one woody perennial stem referred to as the "trunk." Shrubs usually have multiple woody perennial stems similar in size that spread out from the base.  Shrubs are generally shorter than trees when healthy and mature.  It should be noted this is simply a general rule of thumb. As many of you may know, trees can have more than one stem when mature.  An example of this exception would be river birch (Betula nigra), which is known as a tree, but often has 2-3 stems equal in size making up its trunk.  On the other hand, many shrubs may have just one stem when young and first establishing themselves.


Helping to clean our air

Excess CO2 is building up in our atmosphere and contributing to climate change.  Trees work against this process.  Instead of breathing in oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide like humans and animals do; trees and shrubs can absorb significant amounts of CO2 from our atmosphere.  They remove CO2 from the air, store the carbon in tissues, and release the oxygen back into the atmosphere. It's a win-win scenario.  With climate change becoming more and more evident, there has never been a better time than now to plant a native tree or shrub in your restoration!


Natural way to manage our storm water

As tree roots spread out and grow deeper into our soil, they help to reduce soil compaction and allow water to be more readily absorbed into the soil.   Trees also use and intercept large volumes of water, which reduces runoff.  Less urban runoff works to improve the quality of our lakes and streams. .  After a tree dies it can be mulched which is a great way to use trees for an additional benefit. The mulch can protect soils and reduce erosion,   and will simultaneously help to suppress the growth of those pesky weeds within your restoration. 


Trees and shrubs support our soil

Red-osier Dogwood

Woody plants are a great way to manage soil erosion.  Many species of trees and shrubs possess sprawling root systems that can withstand harsh environments.  For example, red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) prefers moist soils which make it a great option for a lakeshore, stream bank, or wetland edge.  It can handle the moisture and has a far-reaching root system that is great at stabilizing soils.  Additionally, this plant has attractive white flowers, bears fruit for wildlife in late summer through late fall, and shows off vibrant red stems in the middle of winter.


Small mammals eating bark off stems during the winter.

Benefits throughout the seasons

It is well known that here in Minnesota, we truly are a state that experiences all four seasons.  Our native trees and shrubs have evolved to tolerate seasonal change.  Along with this, a multitude of animals depend on these plants for food and cover.   In the springtime, many woody plants possess blooming flowers which provide nectar and pollen for a variety of early-season pollinators.  During the summer months, woody plants are critical habitat and food sources for many species of insects, birds and mammals. Additionally, many native pollinators, such as moths and butterflies undergo metamorphosis on our native trees and shrubs.  In fall and into winter, they provide food for a number of wildlife species that consume berries, twigs, and bark.  A variety of woody architecture provides essential cover during the frigid winter months. 


At Natural Shore we have a number of different native tree and shrub species, along with hundreds of Minnesota native plants available for you to get an early start on your restoration this spring. Feel free to contact our professional staff today about any questions you may have.


Here are selected native trees and shrubs to consider for your restoration:



river birch (Betula nigra)

tamarack (Larix laricina)

quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)

black cherry (Prunus serotina)

white oak (Quercus alba)

swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor)

bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)

American mountain-ash (Sorbus americana)



black chokecherry (Aronia melanocarpa)

pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea)

winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

American plum (Prunus americana)

common chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)

red-berried elder (Sambucus pubens)

American cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)
Retail Nursery Re-Opening!
Come Visit us for our Seasonal Re-opening!
Thursday May 21st!

Click here for plant lists and prices!
Native Plant of the Month
Foxglove Beardtongue     
Penstemon digitalis

Moisture: Moist or Dry
Exposure: Full Sun to Full Shade
Bloom: June-July
Color: White
Height: 3-4 Feet

Foxglove Beardtongue is a clump-forming, rhizomatous plant with attractive clusters of white tubular flowers.  Their stems are generally smooth with a waxy shine, but sometimes can have fine hairs.  The 2-lipped, tubular flowers are white with purple lines inside the fused petals. It grows best in full sun or part sun in soil with dry to medium moisture.  It has a high tolerance to drought and a long blooming period.  Foxglove Beardtongue is found in open woods, prairies, and wood margins.  Hummingbirds, sphinx moths, butterflies, and bees love to visit the flowers for food.  The genus "Penstemon" is derived from the flower having 5 stamens (4 fertile and 1 sterile).  The common name of "beardtongue" is from the sterile stamen having tufts of hairs at one end.  Other common names are tall white beard-tongue, white foxglove beardtongue, false foxglove.
Invasive Plant of the Month

White Poplar

Girdled White Poplar with suckers making up the understory

Populus alba


Exposure: Sun or Partial Shade


Height: 40-80 feet

Blooms: April-May


This tree is a European introduction that escaped the ornamental trade and is now found in our woodlands. While they are a non-native pest, they are short lived with frail wood. They have an alternate, simple leave that is green on the top side and a distinctly silvery white color on the underside. Management strategies include cutting the tree at the base and treating it with herbicide. 

Pollinator of the Month

Monarch Butterfly

Danaus plexippus


Range: Southern Canada to the northern areas of South America.

Habitat: Prairies, gardens, open fields

Identification: The tops of Monarch wings have a distinctive orange coloring with black veins and white spots around the tips of the wings. The underside of their wings are a lighter orange and their bodies are all black except for more white dots on their faces and underside. Caterpillars have white, yellow, and black stripes with black antenna. 

Pollination: May is a great time to plant the host plants of Monarch butterflies; Milkweed! The adults feed on milkweed nectar and lay eggs on the underside of the leaves. The caterpillar eats the milkweed leaves and flowers until they are big enough to make a chrysalis. There are multiple species of Milkweed that these beautiful butterflies love, Swamp Milkweed, Butterfly Weed, Common Milkweed, and Whorled Milkweed are just a few! 


Unfortunately Monarch populations have been declining dramatically for years. Make sure you plant a lot of milkweed in your yard this season! But remember, it is important to make sure it is native to this region! 

May 2015 Issue
Our Company
Retail Nursery News
Our Retail Nursery is closed for the season. Check our website for next year's retail dates and other updates.

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Minnnesota Native Plant Brand ensures that plant species are native to Minnesota. 
Upcoming Events

Protect our Pollinators Free workshop and Native Plant Sale on May 9th at  Oak Grove Presbyterian Church, 2200 W Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington, MN 55431

Come get Native Plants at Burnsville's Native Plant Market Saturday May 30th from 9am to 1pm at 100 Civic Center Parkway (Parking lot across from City Hall)

Join us at the Minnetonka City Hall for their 2015 Eco Fun Fest where we will be selling native plants! Wednesday June 3rd!

Summer Natives
We will be selling our native plants at the Purple Martin Days on June 6th at Schroeder Country Park in Annandale Minnesota!

Landscape Revival on Saturday June 6th from 9am to 3pm at the Community Pavilion at the Roseville Club Foods. 1201 Larpenteur Ave W Roseville, MN 55113