MN PlantWatch

Volunteer walking through wildflower field

Volunteer to assist with field-based plant surveys, seed collections and research!

MN PlantWatch aims to recruit, train and deploy plant conservation volunteers across the state to survey for native orchids and other rare plants for conservation. Trained volunteer teams will be assigned surveys based on datasets available from the Bell Museum Herbarium and iNaturalist. 

The program will tell us the "state of" species or groups of related plants in our study area while engaging an urban-based community with open space areas surrounding the Twin Cities region. This project will gather critically important information for conservation planning and develop a skilled volunteer network able to assist with the promotion and protection of native plants.

About MN PlantWatch

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What We Do

Minnesota is home to more than 1,700 vascular plant species, of which over 300 are listed as Endangered, Threatened or of Special Concern. These plants are invaluable components of the state’s biodiversity and natural heritage, but are declining or vulnerable to loss at an increasing rate. Over 100 native plant species once known to exist in Minnesota are now completely gone and 60 species have five or fewer known populations in the state.

In order to better protect and manage our rare plant species, we need to have current and accurate data on the health and locations of the plant populations in their habitats. Therefore, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum have partnered to launch MN PlantWatch!  

This program harnesses the power of volunteers across Minnesota to conduct citizen science and help increase our knowledge of Minnesota’s rare native plants to help drive conservation actions. Collected data will be used to provide a better understanding of the rare species population health and guide decisions on protection and management needs.

In addition, seeds will be collected from multiple populations of each rare plant species and stored in the Arboretum’s Rare Plant Seed Bank. This will serve to help preserve the genetic diversity found across a species’ range, provide a backup seed bank in case of population loss and provide an opportunity for research to better understand these species.

Additional supporting partners to this program are The Bell Museum of Natural HistoryThe Minnesota Native Plant Society, and The Minnesota Master Naturalist Program.

What It Means to Become a MN PlantWatch Volunteer

Volunteers will work alongside DNR and Arboretum staff to learn and search for rare plants in natural habitats where populations have been previously documented but where records haven’t been updated in a long time. They will travel to assigned locations (such as public lands or properties with landowner permission), and use maps and GPS coordinates to navigate through natural habitats to specific areas where the rare species habitat may occur. Volunteers will then search for the assigned species and will collect data on locations, individual plant counts, information about the population's health, and information about the surrounding plant community. Once trained and comfortable, volunteers may have the opportunity to continue to conduct independent or partnered surveys with other volunteers in coordination with PlantWatch staff.

Site conditions vary by location, but volunteers for MN PlantWatch should be comfortable with the following:

  • Walking on uneven ground in natural habitats (prairies, woods, etc).
  • The ability to identify plant species with the aid of photos, written descriptions, and other resources (we will work with you to ensure you are familiar with your assigned plant).
  • The ability to stand, bend, stoop and carry objects.
  • The ability to follow survey protocols and record accurate field data.
  • The ability to navigate off-trail in remote or undeveloped areas.
  • Completing online and in-person training as assigned by PlantWatch staff.

Volunteers can be provided with all necessary field equipment, but will typically need to provide their own transportation to a site location. Timing will vary based on species characteristics (for example, if the best time to identify the species is during flower) and locations are available across the state.  

Interested in Becoming a MN PlantWatch Volunteer?

Interested in joining PlantWatch? We are looking for volunteers to assist with field-based plant surveys, seed collections and research.

To receive program communications and/or to become a volunteer, fill out our MN PlantWatch Signup Form to join our contact list.  

Volunteer Resources

Check out the following resources for volunteers. 

Volunteer Sign-up Form

People searching in the woods

Program Funding

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). The Trust Fund is a permanent fund constitutionally established by the citizens of Minnesota to assist in the protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources. Currently, 40% of net Minnesota State Lottery proceeds are dedicated to growing the Trust Fund and ensuring future benefits for Minnesota’s environment and natural resources.