Fresh AfieldMore posts

Fragile Frost Flowers

Dec 14, 2009

Frost FlowerIf you’ve been out exploring the countryside on a cold morning recently, you may have encountered the short-lived frost flower. Not really a flower at all, frost flowers are delicate and beautiful ribbons of ice crystals that form on the lower stems of several species of Missouri plants. They occur only after the first few hard freezes each year in late fall. Not only are frost flowers ephemeral because they only occur during a few days in the fall; they are also short-lived on the day that they occur, often melting quickly when the air temperature warms slightly or rays of sunlight fall on the delicate structures. I’ve received a few reports of frost flowers in recent weeks, but I expect that their season may have passed for this year.

Frost FlowerMissouri plants that are known to produce frost flowers include: dittany (Cunila origanoides), stinkweed (Pluchea camphorata) and white crownbeard (Verbesina virginica). I don’t know what it is about these species that allow them to produce frost flowers. Perhaps their root systems are active later in the year than other species or their stems rupture in just the right way to extrude the ribbons of sap. Whatever the reason, frost flowers consistently restrict themselves to the stems of just a few species.

While the plants’ stems are ruptured by the freezing weather, the root system is still sending plant sap up from the warmer ground. The sap extrudes from the broken stem and freezes on contact with the cold air. As more saps moves up, it pushes the freezing ribbon of white ice crystals into odd-looking, folded ribbons that reminded someone of flower petals. Like snowflakes, I expect that no two frost flowers are ever identical.

Observers often report that they’ve lived in Missouri for decades but have never before seen such an occurrence. I guess it’s another instance of the requirement of “being in the right place at the right time.” It is encouraging to me that there are still new things to see in Missouri’s outdoors, something to offer for even experienced explorers of the natural landscape. Frost flowers are another reason to get out and explore, at a time when you might least expect to see something new.

Comments

If you want to observe some natural beauty and some colorful gifts from the nature then there is no other thing except flowers which you can observe. They bring colors to your dull life. Attractive colors of flowers give you a calm and relaxed feeling. Flowers are important in our lives, as an inspiration and to give peace of mind.

Recent Posts

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Butterfly Gardening

Apr 16, 2018

DISCOVER NATURE NOTES:  Want to bring butterflies to your backyard?  Planting native plants will help feed our native, hungry flyers.  Planting the right greenery to feed their hungry, hungry caterpillars is an easy way to bring them in.  Native plants help native species and will make any garden pop with color throughout the season.  Learn tips to attract butterflies and watch a video on native gardening in this week's Discover Nature Note.

 

 

Champion Bald Cypress Tree

50 Years of Champion Trees

Apr 09, 2018

Everyone likes to root for a champion.  And when that champion is rooted in the ground, it’s an award-winning affair.  For 50 years, Missouri has registered champion trees with state records in over 100 species around the state.  A record tree is decided on a point system that includes height, crown, spread, and trunk size.  The largest tree on record is a bald cypress tree in southeast Missouri. Trees are the largest and oldest living organisms and often mark milestones in our lives and communities.  Learn more about champion trees, how you can view and nominate them, and watch a video of a special champion with its own Facebook page and caretaker family in this week's Discover Nature Note.

Arbor Day girl planting tree

Missouri Arbor Day

Apr 02, 2018

ARBOR DAY:  It's been said that in the time of Columbus, squirrels could travel from tree to tree without touching the ground, from the Atlantic to the Mississippi.  Most of our ancient forests are long gone.  Arbor Day offers an opportunity to plant new seedlings across the country and state.  School children and adults participate in Arbor Day, which is dedicated to planting, celebrating and caring for trees, our largest living organisms. Missouri celebrates Arbor Day the first Friday in April, and National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April.  Learn more about Arbor Day and how you can help trees in this week's Discover Nature Note.