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a bison topiary

New year-round topiary joins OSU-Stillwater campus

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Media Contact: Shannon Rigsby | Associate Director of Public Information | 405-744-9081 |

Oklahoma State University has many notable topiaries around campus including a cowboy boot and hat as well as people lined up signing “O-S-U” outside Old Central. 

This fall, a bison joined campus with a few new features allowing it to stay out year-round. A topiary is foliage that has been trimmed and shaped into an object.

facilities managment and darren shrum standing in front of bison topiary

The bison is OSU’s first attempt to have a year-round topiary on campus. Other topiaries are taken to the indoor greenhouse when temperatures dip below about 40 degrees. The bison is also the first topiary in the new Native Plant Corridor display on Hester Street across from the ENDEAVOR lab. 

“The American Plains Bison fit the goal of providing campus with an exciting new topiary that also compliments the Native Plant Corridor plantings,” said John Lee, director of landscape services at OSU. “The Plains Bison represents a species more specifically native to the United States region of North America and fits right in with our native grass plantings of the corridor.”

Inside the steel frame is electrical heat tape, which will help keep the soil temperature up in colder months. Joe Preston, a lab manager in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, worked with his team to create this frame in addition to the horns, hooves and eyes of the bison. 

“Construction of the frame was pretty straightforward for us from a fabrication standpoint, the biggest challenge was stopping to check from multiple angles to keep the body flowing and in scale,” Preston said. “Facilities Management landscaping leaders have been great to work with. They’ve provided criteria to meet but also given us the flexibility to build as needed.” 

Internal irrigation keeps the topiary saturated with pressure regulated drip tubing. A special blend of soils was used inside the topiary with the planting mesh hide made of woven wires with moss. 

The bison is planted with native perennial grasses — Carex Pensylvanica, also known as Pennsylvania sedge — that can tolerate all seasons in Stillwater. The electrical tape inside the frame will maintain the temperatures needed for the sedge to thrive. 

“The grasses will go through their seasonal changes offering a change in color and texture,” Lee said. “The grass-planted hide will also transition to a different color.”

The bison was put on display early Thursday morning to be seen as students continue to move on campus and start classes Monday. 

“A huge thanks to senior administration for helping make this possible,” Lee said. “The entire concept to completion was a team effort shared by only OSU personnel. It truly showcases the talents and skills of our OSU family here on campus.”

Story By: Abigail Cage |

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