Finding frost flowers in the wood.

Looking out into the wood behind our house I am shocked to see it is full of clumps of white. I’m ashamed to say at first I thought it was rubbish: waste paper, or plastic bags, or some kind of insulation.

Jan 3rd-1-14

Going out to walk the dog I take the time to step out the gate at the back to take a closer look. Now I can see its not discarded plastic bags or paper instead it looks like some kind of insulated wrapping material. the kind that plants everywhere are currently swaddled in against the arctic air.

Jan 3rd-1-9

I wonder if the deer have ripped up some of our neighbor’s plant covering against the frost.

But my dog is jumping up and down with excitement and my dad is out the front waiting so I leave it for now and go to walk the dog. It’s another sub zero morning walk where we try to stick to the warm-even-in-winter-Texas-sun covered side of the street and avoid the shaded pavement where ice still lurks.

While I am walking I resolve to be a good neighbor and go pick up the rubbish in the wood when I get back. New Year’s Resolution 3: help when you can. So after I have collected the mail from the mail box, got back in, fed and watered the dog, I put on gardening gloves, collect two empty trash bags and head out back to clean up the trees and shrubs in the greenbelt..

Its only when I pick up the first piece of crumpled white that I realize my mistake. For it cracks and breaks in my hand delicate as glass and looking down I see its ice.

 

A ribbon of ice swirled and folded on itself. looking round I see it is ice actually swirls and clumps of ice that are spread everywhere.

When I examine each piece more closely I can see how beautiful it is. Crystals in lines ruffled and rolled like lace or silk.

Jan 3rd-1-12

How on earth did ice freeze like this?

I google it, the local News station -Kvue- states that people in Austin have been seeing these since New Years Day. They explain them as follows….

According to the National Weather Service, “Frost flowers are thin layers (perhaps credit card thickness) of ice that are extruded through slits from the stems of white or yellow wingstem plants, among others.”For frost flowers to form, you need temperatures at or below freezing, soil that is above freezing and moist, and a plant’s stem that has not been previously frozen that season. “The water in the plant’s stem is drawn upward by capillary action from the ground. It expands as it freezes and splits the stem vertically and freezes on contact with the air,” continued the Weather Service. These ribbons of icy curls expand, as moisture continues to move upward from the plant’s stem. Like a snowflake, no two frost flowers are alike.

Because they need such particular circumstances they are very rare. So I feel blessed that my impulse to pick up rubbish led me to see these Arctic blooms close up. How amazing that the living energy plants and  the freeze of winter could combine to create such intricate glacial sculptures. With delight I rushed back in and got  my camera to record these wondrous frost flowers.

Here are the pictures I took of them.

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