Here are some of the smaller trees and bushes that exist beneath the treetops and above the forest floor in our Minnesota lake region. This “understory” provides food and cover for wildlife.
Wild Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)
Red Raspberry is a native plant common throughout Minnesota and easily recognized. It is likely the wild berry most often eaten by people.
In our area the raspberries are especially noticeable now, because of their eye-catching ripe fruit. They are most commonly found in the dappled shade at the edges of forested areas.
Stems, or canes, sent up by raspberry plant in spring (primocane) typically do not produce fruit in their first year. It is in its second year that the canes, now called floricane, produce flowers and fruit. Botanically, raspberries are actually not berries, rather they are an aggregate fruit comprised of several drupelets.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier interior),
May and July
The white flowers of the Serviceberry, photographed in May, were featured in one of this blog’s first posts. Now in late July, this update shows the berries produced by this plant. Despite this plant’s alternate name of Juneberry, in our area it seems the berries don’t ripen until July.
Wolfberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis)
Wolfberry, also called Western Snowberry, is a woody shrub in the honeysuckle family. It is prevalent in prairie settings, but also found at forest edges in Minnesota. A related species with smaller flowers named Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), is also common in Minnesota. When I was a kid on a Minnesota farm, I believe we called these plants buckbrush.
The flowers are followed by white berries that are edible by some wildlife, but mildly poisonous to humans.
While these plants are native, they are considered undesirable in pasturelands.
Despite its name, the Bush Honeysuckle is actually not in the Honeysuckle family. The flower is similar to honeysuckles, but the leaves and fruit are quite different.
Bush Honeysuckle is a native low-growing plant that prefers well-drained soils. It is recommended as a landscape plant for use on slopes to prevent erosion. It is also desirable for its striking burgundy color in fall.