Minnesota’s forest communities are represented by two major ecological communities; deciduous forests characterize southeastern Minnesota, extending up toward northwestern Minnesota, while northeastern Minnesota is characterized as coniferous forest, dominated primarily by pines, white spruce, balsam fir, and stands of aspen and birch.
Much of the deciduous forest biome has been cleared for agriculture since European settlement in the early 1800s, with nearly all of the 3,000 square-mile (7770 square kilometers) Big Woods being converted to farmland. Norway Valley, a 15-acre (6 ha) parcel of native hardwood trees is the oldest forest area on campus, representing the Big Woods habitat. Wildflowers, or spring ephemerals, cover the floor of Norway Valley in early spring before the trees and shrubs have shaded out the sunlight.
In order to restore a portion of the Big Woods habitat, St. Olaf has planted over 40,000 tree seedlings to date. St. Olaf’s restored forest encompass over 100 acres (40ha) of land. This includes seven acres (2.83 ha) of coniferous species, planted primarily for educational purposes.
MN DNR: Minnesota’s Biomes