I always mentally referred to these icy extrusions as frost flowers, but had never read anything about them.
Inspired by my friend Travis’ success just Googling the word or phrase that comes to mind, I tried typing frost flower in the search field… Guess what? These structures are commonly referred to as – frost flowers! They also have a scientific name, apparently: Crystallofolia. This website was particularly detailed: http://w3.biosci.utexas.edu/prc/VEVI3/crystallofolia.html
I’m glad you got to see and record this phenomenon. Was the plant frostweed? Coincidentally, I know Bob Harms, the man whose web pages on crystallofolia you provided a link to.
For most of my years in Texas I was unaware of frostweed ice, but after we moved to our current neighborhood in 2004 I was finally able to observe it in our nearby nature park. Last winter I didn’t take any pictures of it, but this winter I did:
I am not sure what the plant was. It was more a broken off stalk reminiscent of goldenrod. I have been thinking of trying to mark the area to see what is growing there come spring and summer.
If you see Mr. Harms, thank him for the posts about crystallofolia, I enjoyed reading them!
I have noticed these frost flowers for a long time and do not recall when I first became aware of them, whether it was in Minnesota, earlier, when I lived in New York, or after I lived in Oklahoma. I didn’t start observing them very closely until I started carrying a camera around, so it has been maybe 1 or 2 years that I have looked at them very closely. The only place I know I have seen them is here in NE Oklahoma. But they are fascinating. Actually, all forms of frost and ice crystals are fascinating to me 🙂
I’ll follow your link now and see what you recorded.
My guess is that you probably saw Verbesina virginica, frostweed, which is a common plant and the one that most readily produces frost flowers. It’s in the sunflower family, as is goldenrod. Your idea of marking the area is a good one; I know where frostweed plants grow in my neighborhood park, so when we get that first freeze, that’s where I head.
Steve, do you have any summertime photos of Verbesina virginica? I might recognize whether I have seen it before. We have very little goldenrod around our 40 acres, and it doesn’t much resemble many of the varieties we had in NY. We also have some native sunflower varieties, but I don’t recall any growing in the relatively shady, edge of the woods areas that I have been photographing these crystallofolia. ~Kyle
Steve, I think mine are of a different plant. You will notice that the way the ice extrudes on mine is more of a vertical eruption than a horizontal, ribbon-like extrusion, as is portrayed in your two photos. Our frost flowers seem to mostly be of the type in my photo, although I can recall having seen some like in your photos… ~Kyle
I’m still guessing that you saw frostweed. It often produces ice ribbons like the ones in your picture.
I’ve posted a couple of frostweed pictures from a little earlier in the fall:
You can see lots more pictures at:
Steve, Now that I followed those links and saw some of the flowers and leaves, I recognize those plants. It may, indeed, be the same as my stalk, since I at least know that some of those grew in the area where I found my crystallofolia. Thanks for spurring on my education! ~Kyle
Success! That Wildflower Center NPIN database, by the way, can help you identify other plants as well. There’s so much to learn (says the professional student).