Meadow rue, a native plant

Bringing Native Plants Back to Minnetonka

During the month of May, I worked to help improve the Cullen Nature Preserve in Minnetonka. The preserve is 30 acres of woods and wetlands that Ann Cullen Smith sold to the City of Minnetonka to be preserved in perpetuity as a natural site for the whole community. (Read more about the preserve at Minnetonka Park and Trail Projects.)

To have the biggest possible impact on improving this property, I partnered with the City of Minnetonka and the Friends of the Cullen Nature Preserve, a volunteer group of local residents dedicated to restoring the preserve to its native state and transforming it into a valuable community asset.

By working all together, we were able to put on five improvement events at the preserve. These were well attended by volunteers from a variety of backgrounds including long time volunteers interested in the preserve, some local boy scouts, and city employees who specialize in native plant restoration.

According to Janet VanSloun the city’s natural resources restoration specialist, we’ve made a huge amount of progress eliminating garlic mustard, an invasive plant, on the property. And having worked on the property with volunteers for the last three years, I’d have to agree! In the past the preserve sometimes seemed overrun by a carpet of garlic mustard, but we’ve seen a huge reduction this year. Our hard work has really paid off! By the end of the month we had moved on to putting cages around native wildflowers and other seedlings we’ve found to help the native restoration of the property.

The work is hardly finished, of course. Garlic mustard grows in a two-year cycle and its seeds can remain viable for as long as ten years, so future work on removing it will likely be needed. But by reducing the presence of garlic mustard and encouraging the growth of native plants like the tall meadow rue—see the photo above—we’ve come a long way in the past few years.

If you’re interested in joining future activities at the Cullen Nature Preserve or getting involved in invasive species removal and native restoration in your community in the west metro, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts at 612.767.1571 or johna@conservationminnesota.org