Take Nothing But Pictures, Leave Nothing But Footprints.

As the spring weather warms our souls with summer on the horizon, Minnesotans and tourists alike will be hitting up our beautiful state parks all over the Land of 10,00 Lakes.

If you are one of those who enjoys experiencing nature, and maybe even tempted to take a taste of the wild home with you, you should know there are restrictions when it comes to what plants you can and cannot harvest and remove from Minnesota State Parks.

What is Not Allowed to Be Harvested From Minnesota State Parks?

Overall, the rule is it is illegal to dig up or damage any plant in a Minnesota State Park, including the popular forager target, fiddlehead ferns -- the little furled fronds as a fern begins to grow.

fiddlehead ferns minnesota
Fiddlehead Ostrich Ferns (Canva)

Other plants on the Minnesota State Park do-not-pick list include all wildflowers and seed heads, leeks or ramps, wild ginseng, birch bark, Chaga, wild asparagus, cattails, dandelions, and conifer cones.

MN Statute 6100.0900 on environmental protection states:

Subpart 1. Generally. Unless otherwise provided by law, no person in a state park or forest recreation area shall disturb, destroy, injure, damage, deface, molest, or remove any state property, including, but not limited to, wildflowers or vegetation of any kind dead or alive, ruins, wild animals, geological formations, historical or archaeological artifacts or sites, historic structures, signs, or facilities...

However, there are exceptions to this rule.

What is Allowed to Be Harvested From Minnesota State Parks?

There are exceptions to the harvesting rule in Minnesota State Parks. The DNR says you are allowed to harvest edible fruits and mushrooms for personal use only, no commercial use harvesting.

harvesting rules mn state parks
Wild Raspberry/bag of morel mushrooms (Canva)

So, you can walk through Minnesota State Parks and grab a handful of berries for breakfast or a bag of mushrooms for dinner, but your uncle cannot harvest a box full of morels for the new pasta dish at his restaurant down the road.

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Wait, Fiddleheads from Minnesota's native Ostrich Fern are edible, shouldn't they fall under the exception to the rule? Nope. The exceptions are allowed because responsible harvests don’t generally impact future growth. Overharvesting of fiddleheads, on the other hand, can kill the plant.

When harvesting fiddleheads on private land with permission, you should look for healthy plant crowns with at least four fiddleheads. Only remove one, maybe two fiddleheads from a single crown, being careful not to damage the remaining fiddleheads.

What is the Penalty For Breaking the Harvesting Rules in Minnesota State Parks?

According to MN Statute 85.20, anyone who violates the rules is guilty of a petty misdemeanor, an offense punishable by a fine of not more than $300.

Why Are Harvesting Restrictions at Minnesota State Parks Important?

The MN DNR says harvesting or disturbing plants in state parks can have negative impacts such as:

  • disturbing soils and trampling other plants, which can lead to invasive species taking hold;
  • removing food sources otherwise available for wildlife;
  • reducing the natural reproduction of some species; and
  • preventing other people from having the same experience.
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