I had never seen frost flowers anywhere besides pictures.
Wednesday morning on the way to work, I thought I saw paper trash wadded up in the freshly mown stumps of roadside weeds. I wondered who might have… then I realized that it was the first morning of temperatures significantly below freezing, directly on the heels of days that hit the 60’s.
It wasn’t trash — it was frost flowers, and lots of them.
(click pic to enlarge)
I knew that they would thaw quickly, and that they would “bloom” only a few days, at best. I had no place to stop for the first batch I saw, but within 10 minutes of leaving home the mouth of a small backroad allowed plenty of room for me to park my tiny car.
I hurried over and immediately entered the zone. It’s where one goes when focus on the task consumes all mental faculties. I didn’t notice the wind that whipped the 24-degree temperature down to 12-degrees “feels like.” I pulled off my gloves for better control of my trusty Canon PowerShot S95.
My feet barely fit into the spaces between the numerous delicate, frozen formations. I crunched a few frost flowers while making my way down to my knees.
A few minutes later my internal clock brought me back to reality, and then my fingers complained. My ears were next. I accepted what I had and headed into work.
For the uninitiated, frost flowers form only on a few species of plants — mostly weeds. When the ground is still warm enough that the plants’ root system pushes water upward, as usual. Many of the cell walls, however, have ruptured in the freezing air. When the moisture reaches those cracks, it exits the plant stem and freezes. The formation continues growing until it thaws or sublimates. Once winter settles in and the plants no longer send up moisture, the frost flowers are gone until the following year.
Photos of them often remind me of ribbon candy, and sometimes make fascinating shapes. Mine did not, but I still was thrilled to see them.