In the posting for November 29 you learned that Verbesina virginica is called frostweed because of the thin sheets of ice that the plant extrudes through the base of its stem when the temperature falls to freezing. Eight mornings later, after the overnight temperature in Austin had dropped into the high 20s, I went back out to Great Hills Park to see how the frostweed plants there were doing. I found only a few with ice formations on the north side of Floral Park Dr., but a bunch on the south side, where I ended up spending most of my time. Because the frostweed phenomenon occurs at the base of the plant’s stem, spending my time meant kneeling, sitting, hunching over or lying down in order to be low enough to aim my camera horizontally at the mostly upright ice formations.
I selected today’s photograph of frostweed’s strange ice phenomenon because it differs in several ways from the last one: today’s is vertical, it shows much more of the plant’s split stalk, and—by virtue of being the last picture I took—it shows some of the sunlight that had begun falling on the ground and that meant the ice formations would soon begin to flake apart and melt.
To see the many places in the southeastern third of the United States where Verbesina virginica grows, you can consult the state-clickable map at the USDA website.
© 2011 Steven Schwartzman