Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nature Notes: Frost Flowers



From a previous post:  Frost flowers occur when the air temperature is below freezing but the ground remains unfrozen.  Here in the Ozarks, that is a fairly common wintertime event.  Our ground never freezes deeply and usually thaws between cold snaps. Some dried weed stems continue drawing moisture up from the ground.  A frost flower forms when water inside a plant stem freezes, expands and is extruded through cracks in the stem forming thin ribbons of ice. Air bubbles trapped in the ice make it appear frothy white. The extruded ribbons of ice are often much more petal-like than the ones pictured here.  Because the stem cracks are irregularly  shaped and the ice pressure inside the stem varies over time, the extruded ice curves and bends.  Like snowflakes, no two frost flowers are ever alike.

Not all plants form frost flowers.  Two of the more common ones that do are yellow ironweed (
Verbesina alternifolia) and white crownbeard (Verbesina virginica). In fact, white crownbeard also is commonly called frostweed.

Another previous post featuring frost flowers, including the shot used to illustrate frost flowers on Wikipedia.



Editors Note (1/13/11):  I'm honored that the frost flowers in this post inspired the following poem by Kris Lindbeck.

You woke up
to frost flowers:
dry weeds
becoming miracles
over one cold night.

Thank you, Kris.

(You can follow Kris on Twitter or visit his blog Haiku etc.)




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22 comments:

MoiCLouLou said...

This is beautiful! Never heard of Frost Flowers before and it's very interesting.
Thank you for sharing this.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I just love seeing these beautiful frost flowers. Gail at Clay and Limestone has shown them many times on her blog. I have looked for them here but Have never found any. I guess I need to look early in the fall here because when it freezes up here it usually stays frozen for some time. We had a quick thaw today but the temps have alread dipped. Brrrr...

jeannette said...

Wow, how beautiful! I've never seen these! Thanks for sharing:)

Pat - Arkansas said...

Always a joy to see photos of such beautiful things. I've never seen one 'live' but need to be alert to the possibility.

TSannie said...

Those are beautiful! I've never seen them before.

Harvey Schmidt said...

Frost Flowers eh! There Beautiful!

Ellen Rathbone said...

I love these, although I've never seen one myself. I hope to one day, though.

NicoleB said...

I never knew they had a name :-D
They are gorgeous!!

Jedediah said...

How beautiful! I have never seen one of those before.

Mama Zen said...

How cool!

Carver said...

This was a very interesting post. We have frost flowers sometimes but I didn't know what was involved with making them.

srp said...

These a beautiful and I too, have never seen them before. I bet the freezing of the water and the cracks can't be that great for the plant. But if the roots remain sheltered, they do come back in spring don't they... minus the frost flowers of course.

EG Wow said...

Fascinating! I have never seen these before. I don't even know if Verbesina alternifolia of V. virginica grow in my area. If so, I will look out for frost flowers in the spring. Thank you for such an interesting post!

Marvin said...

Thanks to everyone for their visits and comments.

srp: No. These plants are annual weeds and are now dead and dried out appearing, but their stalks are still standing in waste places. There's just something about their capillary arrangement that causes these dead stems to pull moisture up out of the ground from their equally dead root system.

Arija said...

Magical indeed, like someone had been playing around with egg whites beaten with sugar. lovely translucent effect.

Leora said...

How pretty! I've never heard of frost flowers.

Roxann said...

Ah man, I've been meaning to get a picture of these on my blog for years and never had the camera when I saw them. You posted some great ones, though :)

madcobug said...

Those are beautiful..Thanks for sharing.Helen

ramblingwoods.com said...

Oh my..I have never heard of that before. Here in NY we freeze solid. How beautiful and creative Mother Nature is... Thanks for the update on the redwings...I think that they paid a heavy price for fireworks.. sad and unnecessary I feel...Michelle

MyMaracas said...

How wonderful! I have never seen these before. You can be I'll be on the lookout for them.

Lana Gramlich said...

So beautiful...

AJ said...

Amazing, great post. Thanks for teaching.

Never seen anything like that here in Colorado, but our 'snow ferns' :)

http://picasaweb.google.com/adam.jack/SnowFerns