Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Frostweed ice thrice

with 32 comments

Frostweed Ice on Two Stalks 2411

Last month you saw a picture of frostweed ice for the second time this season. That photograph was from December 29, but when we had a morning about as cold two days later, I checked the patch of Verbesina virginica plants in Great Hills Park again and found not a single bit of ice. I figured that might be it for this winter, but on the colder morning of January 5th I discovered ice emerging from more of the plants than in either of my two previous sessions. Duty-bound by the nature photographer’s oath never to pass up a chance for good pictures, I put on several layers of clothing and my hip-high waterproof boots, then went back and ended up spending 75 minutes kneeling and even lying on the cold ground. Ah yes, dedication.

The first picture of frostweed ice you saw this season was taken with a flash. The second was not, and in fact none of the photographs from that session included flash. On this third and last occasion I took every picture with my ring flash. When photographing frostweed ice I usually go for close and abstract images, and I almost always aim horizontally or even somewhat upward to avoid the clutter on the ground around the base of the stalks. It occurred to me, though, that for a change I should show you an in situ image of the phenomenon, so here it is, clutter and all. At least this picture has the virtue of including two “frost flowers,” and the ice is more horizontally expansive and ribbony than in the other pictures you’ve seen here recently.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 21, 2015 at 5:10 AM

32 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Lovely. Since I’ve yet to see this phenomenon, it is three times the pain for me. Can you sense my green?

    Steve Gingold

    January 21, 2015 at 5:34 AM

    • This you haven’t seen, but in Massachusetts there’s so much more ice to play with, and it lasts for so much longer than the ephemeral frostweed “frost,” that you’re still by far the champion of ice. I see that not in green, but in the pale blue of your most recent image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 21, 2015 at 5:44 AM

  2. Amazing what happens in nature. Great capture! I love your tenacity!


    January 21, 2015 at 6:50 AM

    • It’s an amazing phenomenon, all right, and one that I didn’t even hear about till I’d spent 23 years in Austin. Then it took some more years before I finally saw it with my own eyes. It’s fair to say most people here still don’t know about it.

      We can put tenacity on a par with veracity, which we’ll oppose to mendacity.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 21, 2015 at 7:10 AM

  3. I’ve never seen such a thing. Very interesting.

    Dan Traun

    January 21, 2015 at 6:56 AM

  4. wow; that image looks like a fairy wrapped the plant with some type of ribbon! i think this is my favorite of the three – you’re knocking those frostweed posts out of the ballpark!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    January 21, 2015 at 7:36 AM

    • I’m glad to hear you’re standing outside Frostweed Stadium and catching those posts as they come flying out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 21, 2015 at 7:48 AM

      • Ja! Thanks for the smile, and yes, I’m usually outside with all senses on high alert, though many times i’m too far away for the sounds of my cheering to reach you!

        Playamart - Zeebra Designs

        January 21, 2015 at 7:53 AM

        • Now here’s something for speakers of Spanish and English to cheer about: English got the word cheer from Old French chiere, which had developed from Late Latin cara. That’s the same cara that has passed into Spanish and that means ‘face.’ Just think of cheer as putting on a happy face and you’ve got the idea.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 21, 2015 at 10:02 AM

    • Precisely my thoughts Z.


      January 21, 2015 at 9:19 PM

  5. Fantastic! Thanks for sharing


    January 21, 2015 at 7:54 AM

  6. I read more about the mechanics of this process and thought a time lapse video would be good. Someone has done that. Informative.

    Jim in IA

    January 21, 2015 at 8:02 AM

    • Thanks. Readers who watch this can see the time-lapse part beginning at about 18 seconds into the video. (You’ll have to click the YouTube logo at the bottom to be taken to the video.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 21, 2015 at 10:06 AM

  7. Cool! Your efforts at braving the cold were well rewarded! thanks for the image!


    January 21, 2015 at 8:50 AM

  8. I really like this opportunity to see the phenomena in situ. Very cool. Thank you for your bravery!


    January 21, 2015 at 10:12 AM

    • You’re welcome. One way of looking at art is as a transformation, and that’s the approach I take when I go for abstract presentations of subjects. In the real world, though, most people wouldn’t get to see those subjects that way, so I thought I should give a more realistic look at these strange ice ribbons. Still, over the 75 minutes that I braved the cold, most of the pictures I took were of the artsy type.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 21, 2015 at 10:45 AM

  9. You know that I never tire of images of frost flowers. I wish our PA conditions were such that these would ‘flower’ in our area.

    Pairodox Farm

    January 21, 2015 at 3:34 PM

    • Online sources say Verbesina virginica makes it to Pennsylvania, but I didn’t find any sources that indicate which counties it’s been found in there. Perhaps you could check with the botany department at a local university or with a native plant group in your area. If you can locate any frostweed plants near you this summer, you can head back to them when the first freeze hits in the fall. In the meantime you’ve got the photos from Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 21, 2015 at 4:08 PM

  10. Love this shot!


    January 21, 2015 at 4:20 PM

  11. Pretty amazing, I am grateful you took time to capture this.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    January 21, 2015 at 4:47 PM

  12. Even thrice, the ice is nice. You rolled the dice, and in a trice you’d caught the stems, now winter-spliced.


    January 21, 2015 at 9:58 PM

    • No mice or rice or even gneiss
      Is worth the price of frostweed ice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2015 at 8:07 AM

      • Gneiss? That took a search. But I found some, in the Llano uplift, along with a set of nice, annotated drives. They’re tucked in the files. Why not combine rocks and flowers on a nice spring drive?


        January 22, 2015 at 1:42 PM

        • I know the long bridge in Llano that’s shown in your linked article. I drove across it as recently as last September on the way to Lubbock and Albuquerque. Some days later, in Mesa Verde National Park, I saw what appeared to be a field trip of people looking at rocks in a cliff along the road.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 22, 2015 at 5:23 PM

  13. That is dedication! And here we sit, enjoying the fruits of your hard labor–it hardly seems fair, but I’ll take it! This is a particular nice one of the frost weed.

    Susan Scheid

    January 24, 2015 at 9:01 PM

    • So glad you’ve enjoyed it, Susan. You’re as dedicated to your pieces of music as I am to my pieces of plants.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2015 at 11:53 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: