Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Nice ice thrice

with 12 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

Last week you saw a picture of the frostweed ice I spent a couple of hours photographing on December 11. In a later post that showed a deer’s antler I mentioned a repeat performance of the ice on the morning of December 12. On those days the afternoons warmed up seasonally, and on December 18 and 19 we had record highs of at least 80°. Then, in a reversal, a cold front blew in, and on the solstice morning of December 21 my outdoor thermometer showed that the temperature had dropped close to freezing. I wondered if the frostweed could have produced a third round of ice, and when I checked the location in Great Hills Park that I’d gone to the other two times, I found that it had. Lucky me! This was the first time I’ve ever photographed frostweed ice three times in one season (even one fortnight, as the British say).

I don’t know if any of the affected plants this third time were among the ones that had produced ice on either of the other two mornings. I would’ve had to mark all the plants I saw the first time, and that amount of work would have taken me away from what I was there for, which was pictures. And speaking of that, look at how different the ice in today’s photograph is from the ice you saw last week: this time it spreads farther out and is much more irregular. Vive la différence!

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 23, 2012 at 6:17 AM

12 Responses

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  1. I’ve been told by hill country dwellers that it’s one plant, one ice bloom. “They” say that once a plant has split and extruded its ice, that’s it for the year. Of course, I grew up believing the notion that every single snowflake is different, and it seems that’s not so . What I do believe is that no ice blossom ever looks like another. Have you seen this collection of photos from College Station in 2010? When you get right down to it, frostweed is performance art!


    December 23, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    • I like your description of the frostweed ice phenomenon as performance art. On the three mornings in question, it was even a command performance, as I was the only person who stopped by to watch it. If any people had happened by, they would have thought I was part of the performance because I often lay down on the ground and squirmed around trying to get good angles for my pictures.

      As for the claim of “one plant, one ice bloom,” that seems to be false. In Bob Harms’ documentation of the phenomenon based on extended observations at his property west of Austin,


      he writes: ” Once the stem has ruptured in this manner, subsequent formations tend to be smaller and move closer to the stem base. Compare the formations of January 13 — the tenth event for the two above plants….” From that, it’s safe to say that at least some plants have recurrences of ice, even if not all do.

      As you point out, the shapes of the ice formations are unique, depending as they do on the physical characteristics of each stalk, the temperature, the wind, the amount of water available, gravity, etc.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 23, 2012 at 8:13 AM

      • I think you must have referenced Bob Harms in the past. His name’s awfully familiar, and there’s no place I can imagine coming across him except here.

        His documentation of the ice plants’ behavior was fascinating – science wins out over folklore in this case. It took a while to get through, some of the science being unfamiliar, but I can see spending more time on his pages. I’m especially interested in the story of his raccoon. 😉


        December 23, 2012 at 9:05 AM

  2. That plant did itself proud with so much ice. I will have to look up the stuff that you guys mentioned here.


    December 23, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    • There’s lots of information in those links about this strange and impressive local phenomenon.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 23, 2012 at 2:34 PM

  3. Spectacular! I am impressed. Thanks Steve
    Have a nice Christmas


    December 23, 2012 at 2:29 PM

  4. I hadn’t realised the ‘dandelion’ family could be so different. I’ve never seen such a thing as this post! You have all the interesting stuff over there… :O) Merry Christmas to you, steve; look forward to more learning next year, all the best,


    December 23, 2012 at 9:56 PM

    • You have plenty of unique flora and fauna in Australia, too. I haven’t seen a kangaroo in my neighborhood lately.

      As for the plant family that includes dandelions (which aren’t native to North America or Australia), you’re right that it comprises a huge variety of plants. A few native species from my area, in addition to frostweed, that show the family’s diversity are goldenrod, gayfeather, mistflower, gumweed, silverpuff, and sneezeweed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 24, 2012 at 6:05 AM

      • LOL re the kangaroo thing; whatever you do, do not believe the story that kangaroos bound down the streets of Sydney, or any other town either. However, the only pet kangaroo I did see was many years ago, sitting in front of the open fire at a hotel where we stayed in Genoa, a lovely town on the water in the eastern part of our small but beautiful State of Victoria. That guy, a big male red kangaroo, loved to be patted!

        And, yes, we do have plenty of floral variety too! There is one interesting native plant species I took and ‘artsified’ using a program called Fractalius that I was testing at the time; I may upload it to jmnartsy, or perhaps my other more mundane blog, jmnpixels. Don’t know its name, but in ‘real’ mode it is a very pretty plant, like a small pom-pom that has skinny eucalypt-type leaves.


        December 26, 2012 at 11:02 PM

        • I visited Sydney seven years ago, and the only thing bounding up and down the streets was me, happy to be in Australia for the first time. I saw plenty of colorful “alien” flowers during my visit.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 27, 2012 at 7:45 AM

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