Grey Cloud Dunes SNA


Area and County

    Washington County
    Metro Area

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237 acres


Detail map (MN DNR)


 Printable Map with GPS coordinates

Printable map    

North Parking Lot
N44 48.051, W92 57.869

South Parking Lot
N44 47.403, W92 57.304

Hiking Trails

The north parking area is at the corner of a woodland that has a dense, at times impenetrable shrub layer. Two trails lead from this parking area into the SNA. The first, a broad, open trail that doubles as a utility road, leads east to restored prairie on former agricultural fields. At that point the trail turns south and follows the top of the bluff, eventually reaching the south parking area. A second, much more interesting trail leads south through the western edge of the woodland. It emerges at the edge of the site’s only shallow lake and near a tunnel under the railroad tracks that connects the north and south sections of the SNA.

A well used trail leads west from the south parking area to the railroad tracks. There are several other trails, really well worn footpaths, on this site, indicating that this metro SNA is often used by the public. On a recent trip there were no cars at the north parking lot when I arrived at 10:30 am on a Sunday. There were five cars in the lot when I left at 3:30 pm.


No hunting

Ecological Classification Province  

Eastern Broadleaf Forest Province

Ecological Classification

Minnesota & NE Iowa Morainal


St. Paul-Baldwin Plains

Land Type Association(s)

Afton Bedrock Hills

Native Plant Communities1

Dry Barrens Prairie (Southern)

Ownership Minnesota DNR logo        

Minnesota DNR


This SNA was designated in 1998.

Oak Grove
In stark contrast to the dense woods near the north parking area, the wooded section at the southwest corner of the SNA is an oak grove. There is an canopy of tall oak, hackberry, and other trees, but there is no shrub layer. This area is often flooded in the spring.

Railroad Prairie
A busy section of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway separates the north and south sections of the SNA. A tunnel beneath the tracks at the west boundary connects the two sections. Two-thirds of the railway between the sections is designated railroad prairie.

Site Steward

Monica Wallace -














Visitor Photos
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Kirk Nelson

Oak Woods in Late Winter

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Looking Out from the Treeline near the Railroad Tracks

  Grey Cloud Dunes SNA    


  Grey Cloud Dunes SNA    
North Section

South Parking

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The south parking area is sometimes closed.

  Grey Cloud Dunes SNA    

North Parking

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Shallow Lake

  Grey Cloud Dunes SNA    

Knapweed Control Area

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Dry Barrens Prairie (Southern)

  Grey Cloud Dunes SNA   Grey Cloud Dunes SNA
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South Section

Tunnel Under Railroad Tracks

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Dry Barrens Prairie (Southern)

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Oak Grove

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Mooers Lake (Mississippi River)

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Oak Woodland

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Man-made Shelter

  Grey Cloud Dunes SNA   Grey Cloud Dunes SNA






Visitor Videos
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Other Videos
  Nature Specials Gone Badly Wrong: Episode 4, "The Sparrow Deer"
Scott B. Meyer

June 14, 2011

This video represents what happens when to much deet is ingested with Nicotine. After seeing a bizzilion sparrows, one gets a bit punchy. Facts were not checked after the release of this video.

It takes place at Grey Cloud Dunes Scientific and Natural Area. This unique prairie is located on sandy terraces 60 and 110 feet above the present Mississippi River. Formed by the out-wash of the greatly enhanced glacial Mississippi, sand dunes resulted in crescent shapes or blow outs from SW winds. The place is a damn sparrow jamberoo, with over 8 different species. Plus isolated scrub is colonized by Orchard Orioles, Brown Thrashers, Bells Vireos, Alder Flycatchers, Eastern Meadowlarks and Yellow-Billed Cuckoos among many other

  Grey Cloud Dunes
Michael Myers

Published on Mar 11, 2017





Visitor Observations
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Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas Amphibians and Reptiles List


Two bird species with conservation status in Minnesota and one tracked species have been seen here:



Henslow’s Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii)


Special concern

Purple Martin (Progne subis)



Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)


Minnesota DNR Bird checklist

eBird Field Checklist


American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)

Dickcissel (Spiza americana)

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)

Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)

Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)

House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi)

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

American Goldfinch

American Robin

Blue Jay

Canada Goose

Eastern Bluebird

Gray Catbird


Northern Cardinal

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

White-breasted Nuthatch

Wild Turkey

Fungi and Lichens

Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas Lichen List


False Turkey Tail (Stereum ostrea)

Gray False Death Cap (Amanita citrina var. grisea)

Oat Crown Rust (Puccinia coronata f. sp. avenae)

Peeling Puffball (Lycoperdon marginatum)

Phomopsis gall on hickory (Phomopsis spp.)

Gray False Death Cap
Insects and Arachnids

bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata)

black and yellow mud dauber (Sceliphron caementarium)

blue orchard bee (Osmia lignaria lignaria)

cabbage white (Pieris rapae)

Carolina grasshopper (Dissosteira carolina)

common green darner (Anax junius)

coral-winged grasshopper (Pardalophora apiculata)

dog day cicada (Neotibicen canicularis)

fraternal potter wasp (Eumenes fraternus)

goldenrod bunch gall midge (Rhopalomyia solidaginis)

goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis)

goldenrod soldier beetle (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus)

great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus)

harvestman (Phalangium opilio)

migratory grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes)

monarch (Danaus plexippus)

oak rough bulletgall wasp (Disholcaspis quercusmamma)

orange-winged grasshopper (Pardalophora phoenicoptera)

red-legged grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum)

summer azure (Celastrina neglecta)

velvet ant (Dasymutilla sp.)

western honey bee (Apis mellifera)

black and yellow mud dauber

common green darner

dog day cicada

goldenrod gall fly

great black wasp



American beaver (Castor canadensis)

coyote (Canis latrans)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius)

thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus)

northern raccoon (Procyon lotor)

whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

whitetail deer


Four plant species with conservation status in Minnesota and one species on the watch list are found here:



Louisiana broomrape (Orobanche ludoviciana ssp. ludoviciana)

seaside three-awn (Aristida tuberculosa)


Special concern

Hill’s thistle (Cirsium pumilum var. hillii)

purple sand grass (Triplasis purpurea)


Watch list

long-bearded hawkweed (Hieracium longipilum)


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas Plant List


Plants frequently found in:

Dry Barrens Prairie (Southern) UPs13a



absinth wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

American basswood (Tilia americana var. americana)

American plum (Prunus americana)

American red raspberry (Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus)

bastard toadflax (Comandra umbellata ssp. umbellata)

big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)

birdfoot violet (Viola pedata)

bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis)

black bindweed (Fallopia convolvulus)

black cherry (Prunus serotina var. serotina)

black medick (Medicago lupulina)

black-seeded plantain (Plantago rugelii var. rugelii)

bland sweet cicely (Osmorhiza claytonii)

bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

boxelder (Acer negundo var. negundo)

bracted spiderwort (Tradescantia bracteata)

bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa var. macrocarpa)

butter and eggs (Linaria vulgaris)

Canada anemone (Anemone canadensis)

Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

Canada moonseed (Menispermum canadense)

Canada wildrye (Elymus canadensis)

Canadian horseweed (Conyza canadensis)

Canadian milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis var. canadensis)

Canadian tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense)

catnip (Nepeta cataria)

chokecherry (Prunus virginiana var. virginiana)

clammy groundcherry (Physalis heterophylla var. heterophylla)

cleavers (Galium aparine)

Cleland’s evening primrose (Oenothera clelandii)

common blue violet (Viola sororia)

common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

common burdock (Arctium minus)

common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale ssp. officinale)

common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis)

common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

common motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca ssp. cardiaca)

common mullein (Verbascum thapsus ssp. thapsus)

common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

common strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

curly-cup gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)

early figwort (Scrophularia lanceolata)

early meadow rue (Thalictrum dioicum)

eastern black nightshade (Solanum ptychanthum)

eastern false rue anemone (Enemion biternatum)

eastern prickly gooseberry (Ribes cynosbati)

eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana)

field pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta)

field sagewort (Artemisia campestris ssp. caudata)

fragrant bedstraw (Galium triflorum)

garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

giant foxtail (Setaria faberi)

gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa)

gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis)

green amaranth (Amaranthus hybridus)

green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

green foxtail (Setaria viridis var. viridis)

ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

hairy false goldenaster (Heterotheca villosa)

heart-leaved four o’clock (Mirabilis nyctaginea)

hoary alyssum (Berteroa incana)

hoary vervain (Verbena stricta)

Illinois tick-trefoil (Desmodium illinoense)

Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans)

Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)

kidney-leaved buttercup (Ranunculus abortivus)

large-flowered beardtongue (Penstemon grandiflorus)

leadplant (Amorpha canescens)

little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium var. scoparium)

long-spine sandbur (Cenchrus longispinus)

marijuana (Cannabis sativa)

Maximilian’s sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani)

Missouri gooseberry (Ribes missouriense)

narrow-leaved cattail (Typha angustifolia)

narrow-leaved hawk’s-beard (Crepis tectorum)

narrow-leaved hawkweed (Hieracium umbellatum)

northern hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis)

northern red oak (Quercus rubra)

ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica)

Parlin’s pussytoes (Antennaria parlinii)

Pennsylvania smartweed (Persicaria pensylvanica)

plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides ssp. molinifera)

plains snake-cotton (Froelichia floridana var. campestris)

prairie rose (Rosa arkansana)

prairie smoke (Geum triflorum var. triflorum)

prairie spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis var. occidentalis)

prairie sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris ssp. petiolaris)

purple lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis)

purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea var. purpurea)

quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)

rabbit’s foot clover (Trifolium arvense)

rabbit-tobacco (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium)

red clover (Trifolium pratense)

rough blazing star (Liatris aspera var. intermedia)

rough cinquefoil (Potentilla norvegica)

rough cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium)

rough false pennyroyal (Hedeoma hispida)

round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitata)

rush skeletonplant (Lygodesmia juncea)

sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis)

showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)

showy partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata var. fasciculata)

Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila)

silky aster (Symphyotrichum sericeum)

silky prairie clover (Dalea villosa var. villosa)

silvery cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea)

smooth scouring rush (Equisetum laevigatum)

smooth Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum)

spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe ssp. micranthos)

staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)

starry false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum)

stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida ssp. rigida)

stiff sunflower (Helianthus pauciflorus ssp. subrhomboideus)

stiffleaf false golden aster (Heterotheca stenophylla var. angustifolia)

stinging nettle (Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis)

tall cinquefoil (Drymocallis arguta)

Tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica)

velvet-leaf (Abutilon theophrasti)

Virginia groundcherry (Physalis virginiana var. virginiana)

Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum var. virginianum)

western ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya)

white campion (Silene latifolia ssp. alba)

white heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides var. ericoides)

white prairie clover (Dalea candida var. candida)

white sage (Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. ludoviciana)

white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima var. altissima)

white sweet clover (Melilotus albus)

whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)

wild geranium (Geranium maculatum)

wild grape (Vitis riparia)

wild mint (Mentha arvensis)

wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)

wolfberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis)

woodbine (Parthenocissus vitacea)

woolly plantain (Plantago patagonica)

yellow foxtail (Setaria pumila ssp. pumila)

yellow goat’s beard (Tragopogon dubius)

yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis)

yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta)


Abutilon theophrasti (velvet-leaf)

Acer negundo var. negundo (boxelder)

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)

Ageratina altissima var. altissima (white snakeroot)

Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)

Amaranthus hybridus (green amaranth)

Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed)

Ambrosia psilostachya (western ragweed)

Amorpha canescens (leadplant)

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Anemone canadensis (Canada anemone)

Antennaria neglecta (field pussytoes)

Antennaria parlinii (Parlin’s pussytoes)

Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)

Arctium minus (common burdock)

Artemisia absinthium (absinth wormwood)

Artemisia campestris ssp. caudata (field sagewort)

Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. ludoviciana (white sage)

Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)

Asclepias verticillata (whorled milkweed)

Astragalus canadensis var. canadensis (Canadian milkvetch)

Berteroa incana (hoary alyssum)

Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

Carya cordiformis (bitternut hickory)

Celtis occidentalis (northern hackberry)

Cenchrus longispinus (long-spine sandbur)

Centaurea stoebe ssp. micranthos (spotted knapweed)

Chamaecrista fasciculata var. fasciculata (showy partridge pea)

Comandra umbellata ssp. umbellata (bastard toadflax)

Conyza canadensis (Canadian horseweed)

Cornus racemosa (gray dogwood)

Crepis tectorum (narrow-leaved hawk’s-beard)

Dalea candida var. candida (white prairie clover)

Dalea purpurea var. purpurea (purple prairie clover)

Dalea villosa var. villosa (silky prairie clover)

Desmodium canadense (Canadian tick-trefoil)

Desmodium illinoense (Illinois tick-trefoil)

Drymocallis arguta (tall cinquefoil)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Enemion biternatum (eastern false rue anemone)

Equisetum laevigatum (smooth scouring rush)

Eragrostis spectabilis (purple lovegrass)

Fallopia convolvulus (black bindweed)

Fragaria virginiana (common strawberry)

Fraxinus pennsylvanica (green ash)

Froelichia floridana var. campestris (plains snake-cotton)

Galium aparine (cleavers)

Galium triflorum (fragrant bedstraw)

Geranium maculatum (wild geranium)

Geum triflorum var. triflorum (prairie smoke)

Glechoma hederacea (ground ivy)

Grindelia squarrosa (curly-cup gumweed)

Hedeoma hispida (rough false pennyroyal)

Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian’s sunflower)

Helianthus pauciflorus ssp. subrhomboideus (stiff sunflower)

Helianthus petiolaris ssp. petiolaris (prairie sunflower)

Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke)

Heterotheca stenophylla var. angustifolia (stiffleaf false golden aster)

Heterotheca villosa (hairy false goldenaster)

Hieracium umbellatum (narrow-leaved hawkweed)

Hydrophyllum virginianum var. virginianum (Virginia waterleaf)

Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana (eastern redcedar)

Leonurus cardiaca ssp. cardiaca (common motherwort)

Lespedeza capitata (round-headed bush clover)

Liatris aspera var. intermedia (rough blazing star)

Linaria vulgaris (butter and eggs)

Lonicera tatarica (Tartarian honeysuckle)

Lygodesmia juncea (rush skeletonplant)

Maianthemum stellatum (starry false Solomon’s seal)

Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica (ostrich fern)

Medicago lupulina (black medick)

Melilotus albus (white sweet clover)

Melilotus officinalis (yellow sweet clover)

Menispermum canadense (Canada moonseed)

Mentha arvensis (wild mint)

Mirabilis nyctaginea (heart-leaved four o’clock)

Nepeta cataria (catnip)

Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose)

Oenothera clelandii (Cleland’s evening primrose)

Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)

Osmorhiza claytonii (bland sweet cicely)

Oxalis stricta (yellow wood sorrel)

Parthenocissus vitacea (woodbine)

Penstemon grandiflorus (large-flowered beardtongue)

Persicaria pensylvanica (Pennsylvania smartweed)

Physalis heterophylla var. heterophylla (clammy groundcherry)

Physalis virginiana var. virginiana (Virginia groundcherry)

Plantago patagonica (woolly plantain)

Plantago rugelii var. rugelii (black-seeded plantain)

Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum (smooth Solomon’s seal)

Populus deltoides ssp. molinifera (plains cottonwood)

Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen)

Potentilla argentea (silvery cinquefoil)

Potentilla norvegica (rough cinquefoil)

Prunus americana (American plum)

Prunus serotina var. serotina (black cherry)

Prunus virginiana var. virginiana (chokecherry)

Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium (rabbit-tobacco)

Quercus ellipsoidalis (northern pin oak)

Quercus macrocarpa var. macrocarpa (bur oak)

Quercus rubra (northern red oak)

Ranunculus abortivus (kidney-leaved buttercup)

Rhamnus cathartica (common buckthorn)

Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac)

Ribes cynosbati (eastern prickly gooseberry)

Ribes missouriense (Missouri gooseberry)

Rosa arkansana (prairie rose)

Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus (American red raspberry)

Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot)

Schizachyrium scoparium var. scoparium (little bluestem)

Scrophularia lanceolata (early figwort)

Setaria faberi (giant foxtail)

Setaria pumila ssp. pumila (yellow foxtail)

Setaria viridis var. viridis (green foxtail)

Silene latifolia ssp. alba (white campion)

Solanum ptychanthum (eastern black nightshade)

Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod)

Solidago nemoralis (gray goldenrod)

Solidago rigida ssp. rigida (stiff goldenrod)

Solidago speciosa (showy goldenrod)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Symphoricarpos occidentalis (wolfberry)

Symphyotrichum ericoides var. ericoides (white heath aster)

Symphyotrichum sericeum (silky aster)

Taraxacum officinale ssp. officinale (common dandelion)

Thalictrum dioicum (early meadow rue)

Tilia americana var. americana (American basswood)

Tradescantia bracteata (bracted spiderwort)

Tradescantia occidentalis var. occidentalis (prairie spiderwort)

Tragopogon dubius (yellow goat’s beard)

Trifolium arvense (rabbit’s foot clover)

Trifolium pratense (red clover)

Typha angustifolia (narrow-leaved cattail)

Ulmus pumila (Siberian elm)

Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis (stinging nettle)

Verbascum thapsus ssp. thapsus (common mullein)

Verbena stricta (hoary vervain)

Viola pedata (birdfoot violet)

Viola sororia (common blue violet)

Vitis riparia (wild grape)

Xanthium strumarium (rough cocklebur)

American plum

birdfoot violet

black cherry


bracted spiderwort

bur oak (var. macrocarpa)

butter and eggs

Canada anemone


common evening primrose

common yarrow

eastern false rue anemone

eastern prickly gooseberry

fragrant bedstraw

hairy false goldenaster

heart-leaved four o’clock

hoary vervain

large-flowered beardtongue


Maximilian’s sunflower

plains snake-cotton

prairie rose

purple prairie clover

rabbit’s foot clover

red clover

rough cinquefoil

round-headed bush clover

silky aster

stiff goldenrod

tall cinquefoil

Tartarian honeysuckle

Virginia waterleaf

white snakeroot

whorled milkweed

wild mint

woolly plantain

yellow sweet clover


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas Amphibians and Reptiles List


One reptile species with conservation status in Minnesota is found here:


Special concern

eastern racer (Coluber constrictor)


painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)

painted turtle




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