Living snow fences are windbreaks designed to prevent blowing snow on transportation routes in cold climate regions. Currently, there is a need to diversify plant species used in living snow fences due to landowner concerns about establishment and growth. Recent studies have suggested that fast-growing shrub willows (Salix spp.) can provide affordable and easily established living snow fences. We sought to compare the growth and establishment of four shrub willow cultivars and one native shrub willow species to two shrub species - gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa Lam.) and American cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus L. var. americanum Ait.) - traditionally used for living snow fences in Minnesota, as well as evaluate different coppice dates within willow species. After two years of growth, we found all species to have survival rates of >80% except for S. eriocephala × S. eriocephala 'S25' (77%). Additionally, postcoppice growth in 2014 for the willows significantly exceeded the growth of the traditional living snow fence species by up to 4.8-fold. Within willows, coppice date (fall of 2013 versus spring of 2014) had no effect on the survival and growth of plants except for S. purpurea 'Fish Creek' and S. eriocephala × S. eriocephala 'S25', which responded differently to coppice dates. Lastly, the native willow species S. petiolaris had comparable growth to the tallest and greatest stem-producing willow cultivars S. purpurea × S. miyabeana 'Oneonta' and S. purpurea 'Fish Creek'. These results suggest that willows may establish faster than traditional living snow fence species; certain native shrub willow species may be as suitable as shrub willow cultivars for living snow fences, and the best coppice time for willow living snow fences may depend on species and objectives.
- Shrub willow