Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A closer look at frostweed ice

with 18 comments

Frostweed Ice Close 9539

Click for greater clarity and considerably larger size.

When I went out on the freezing morning of January 7th, it was to find “conventional” ice formations like the icicles and freezing creek you’ve already seen here and that many of you know so well from living in places with cold winters. To my pleasant surprise, I was also rewarded with dozens of frostweed plants, Verbesina virginica, that were doing their ice trick. Even though I’d taken lots of pictures of that when the temperature dropped below freezing exactly one month earlier, I couldn’t resist the chance to take another round of photographs of the strange phenomenon. I chose today’s view from the January 7th session because it’s unlike the one I’ve already showed from the December 7th outing. In particular it’s a lot closer, so you can see more details in the striations of the ice. If frostweed ice is new to you or you’d like a refresher, you can follow the last link to find out how this ice gets created.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 5, 2014 at 5:57 AM

18 Responses

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  1. On enlargement it looks like silver – so beautiful! Nature is so surprising.


    February 5, 2014 at 6:15 AM

    • Usually frostweed ice looks white, especially from a distance, but you’re right that this piece had a silvery look to it. That’s another reason I chose this picture, to show a different aspect (literally and figuratively) from what I’d shown before.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2014 at 7:36 AM

  2. The striations are so clear. They’re a reminder that frostweed’s very much a “now you don’t see it, now you do” sort of plant. It can’t take that long for the plant to extrude the ice. Surely someone’s done a video or a time lapse, but I can’t find one.


    February 5, 2014 at 7:49 AM

    • Like you, I’ve wondered how long it takes for the ice to get extruded, and I’ve never come across a source that mentions it. Finding out would be easy enough, but it would mean spending a cold night outdoors when the forecast predicts a good freeze. On the other hand, people with frostweed in their yard could mostly keep warm and check up on the plants every now and then.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    • How fun, Linda, you mentioned a video and I was able to find you one. The time lapse is toward the end. 🙂


      February 6, 2014 at 11:18 AM

      • Was there supposed to be a link to a video here, Lynda?

        Steve Schwartzman

        February 6, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      • OOPS!


        February 6, 2014 at 11:30 AM

        • We’ll give you a sleuthing award for finding that time-lapse video. I only wish the guy had included some marker of the time so we’d know how long it took for that much ice to form.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 6, 2014 at 11:39 AM

          • Hahaha!
            Now that you mention it; it would have been nice to know.


            February 6, 2014 at 12:20 PM

  3. In December, we hiked a state park in WV. Along the trail I spotted this ice that appears to have ‘grown’ up from the ground below. Under the snow was a wet gravelly bed of the trail, no vegetation. The columns of ice came up from that mix. Some have been pulled out to show in the image linked. The small ice columns are about 1-2″ long.

    Jim in IA

    February 5, 2014 at 8:25 AM

  4. Wow, an exciting post, this is new to me, I have just gone back into your December 7th post too. Fantastic photos of a fascinating phenomenon.


    February 5, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    • It’s always gratifying to find someone getting excited by nature. Yes, this is quite a phenomenon, and one that I’m fortunate to be able to see—under the right conditions—just half a mile from home.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2014 at 5:03 PM

  5. Always beautiful and fascinating, Steve. I love the closeup!

    I can’t remember where I saw it, but this same phenomenon occurs in metal pipes and fence rails that are cracked. The formations grow out to amazing lengths and look like ribbons that have frozen in the wind!


    February 6, 2014 at 11:22 AM

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