If you’ve marveled at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s YouBetcha stick structure designed and built by internationally-acclaimed artist Patrick Dougherty in May of 2019, you might have wondered where the willow branches that make up the structure came from.
Before they became an artist’s tool, the willows improved winter driving conditions as a part of a research project. The willows were harvested from University of Minnesota research plots near Waseca, and they came from a University of Minnesota Extension research project on living snow fences. Extension's lead educator on the project was Gary Wyatt.
Blowing snow is a problem on Minnesota roadways and can lead to increased accidents, travel time, salt applications, plowing and overall high snow removal costs. Living snow fences are shrubs, trees or plants that form a wind barrier disrupting the wind, causing snow to be deposited on the upwind and downwind sides of the planting.
The willows for the research project, which was funded by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), were planted in 2013 on the MnDOT right of way bordering the north side of U.S. Hwy. 14 south of Waseca.
Read The Willow Story on the University of Minnesota Arboretum blog for the full story, illustrated with many photographs from the research project.