The long cold, winters of Minnesota limit the amount of plants that will grow there. However, anyone who has driven across the Minnesota countryside or gone for a walk through the woods in the summer knows that the state is filled with trees and shrubs that produce flowers, many of them sweetly scented. There are literally dozens of wild flowering trees and shrubs in Minnesota, and you'll need a good field guide to learn to identify all of them.
American mountain ash (Sorbus americana) grows mostly in the northeast part of the state and can be found in shady, moist forests. A large cluster of white flowers appears in the late spring or early summer, and the flowers are followed by bright red berries that are well-loved by robins, waxwings and other songbirds. A related species, European mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia), is grown in gardens throughout the state.
Both crabapples and wild apples (Malus spp.) grow wild across Minnesota, having escaped from cultivation years ago. The pink or white flowers are heavily scented, and the fruit is edible, although it is not always palatable.
Minnesota is home to several native species of serviceberry trees (Amelanchier spp.), also called juneberry, saskatoon or shadblow. The tree earned the name "serviceberry" because it is the first flowering tree of spring, and in pioneer days it was used in funeral services for people who died over the winter. The fruit tastes somewhat like spicy-sweet blueberries and is often used in jams and pies.
American plum (Prunus americana) and Canada plum (P. nigra) both grow in Minnesota, mostly in the southern part of the state, and they can be difficult to tell apart. Wild plums have large clusters of showy white or lightly pink flowers that are very fragrant, and they are often grown ornamentally in gardens. The fruit is smaller and a little more tart than grocery store plums, but it is good for preserves.
Pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), chokecherry (P. virginiana) and black cherry (P. serotina) are the wild cherries that grow in Minnesota. Black cherries and chokecherries have elongated flower clusters, while pin cherries have looser clusters. Ripe pin cherries are red or purple, and chokecherries and black cherries ripen to nearly black. All are edible, although the fruit might be quite tart or astringent and will benefit from being cooked down with sugar to make syrup or jam.
American basswood trees (Tilia americana), also called linden trees, are native to Minnesota, and several other basswood species are grown in yards and gardens. Basswood flowers are small, but they are wildly popular with bees--so much so that basswood are sometimes called 'bee trees." Basswood honey is light and mild and is considered to be a delicacy. The white flowers appear in mid-summer and are followed by small, hard green fruit, which is eaten by squirrels, chipmunks and other wildlife.