As gardeners, we think about plants a lot. But often, we are thinking about a specific plant or plot or problem that is right in front of us. Most of the time, it’s just personal.
In Ten Plants that Changed Minnesota, Mary Hockenberry Meyer and Susan Davis Price help us think about how plants and prosperity are intertwined. They describe how, throughout Minnesota’s history, personal and public decisions about plants have affected everything in the state from agriculture and aesthetics to industry and culture.
The collaboration between Meyer, a professor of horticultural science at the University of Minnesota, and Price, an author of popular gardening books and a frequent contributor to Northern Gardener, grew out of Meyer’s idea to engage Minnesotans in thinking about plants that had shaped their state. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum nurtured the project by soliciting nominations from regular folks. The nominees were evaluated by a panel of horticultural heavyweights, which weighed each plant’s impact on the state’s environment, economy, culture, history, nutrition and landscape.
One could argue with some of the 10 that were selected (and I think Meyer would love that) but they do represent the good (Apples! Wild rice!), the bad (Purple Loosestrife), the sad (American Elm and White Pine) and the cautionary (corn and wheat). Alfalfa, soybeans and lawns were also chosen.
Each plant has its own chapter filled with the history, science and economics related to it, along with plentiful photos, maps, fun facts and Minnesotans’ quotes.