Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Frost and frostweed ice

with 42 comments

As yesterday gave way to today, the temperature in Austin dropped below freezing, so out I went this morning to check on a stand of frostweed (Verbesina virginica) that I rely on in Great Hills Park. Sure enough, a couple of dozen plants had done their magic ice trick. The one shown here did so right next to a straggler daisy (Calyptocarpus vialis) that conveniently harmonized with it by getting frosted in its own right. If you’d like a better view of the straggler daisy, click the thumbnail below.

And if you’re not familiar with the frostweed ice phenomenon, you’re welcome to read more about it.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 14, 2018 at 4:18 PM

42 Responses

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  1. Cool!

    Jim R

    November 14, 2018 at 4:24 PM

    • In more ways than one. I bundled up enough that I barely noticed the low temperature during my hour out in the cold. Fortunately yesterday’s strong wind had vanished by this morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2018 at 4:28 PM

      • It was about 15˚ this morning. That is about 15˚ colder than normal. Moderation is coming.

        Jim R

        November 14, 2018 at 6:42 PM

        • We’ve also had colder weather than is typical for this time of year in Austin. The nature of weather is change.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 14, 2018 at 6:54 PM

  2. When I saw what our low was going to be last night, I checked on your forecast and immediately got frostweed envy! I was sure you’d find some — and so you did. The freeze line stayed north of us; we got down to 34F, and tonight we’re only going down to around 38F, so I’ll have to wait a little longer.

    I like the addition of the straggler daisy; that’s a nice, icy touch.


    November 14, 2018 at 4:30 PM

    • I’d separately shown a frosty straggler daisy two years ago but this time I was fortunate to find one right up against the frostweed ice.

      The first time I checked the outdoor thermometer this morning it said 33°. From past experience, that has been cold enough because the place where I go is half a mile downhill. Cold air settles below warmer air, so I assumed the frostweed plants would have gotten colder, and the ice on the stalks confirmed it. I’m sorry your frostweed envy continues. One of these days you’ll be in the right place at the right time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2018 at 4:42 PM

      • Those hills you have are helpful, just as all the water around here isn’t. Because of the bay, the lake, and the prevalence of marshy land around here, we’re always several degrees warmer than inland areas. The good news is that the whole area stayed warm enough that a second, slightly harder freeze just might do it.


        November 14, 2018 at 4:58 PM

        • I see the drawback, relative to frostweed, of your “temperature inversion.” I imagine it works in your favor for other things. Good luck with the slightly harder freeze.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 14, 2018 at 5:34 PM

  3. High school weather here (we’ll be in the teens tonight).
    I’m fascinated by these frostweeds. This specimen looks like ribbon candy.
    The daisy may be a straggler, but it’s beautiful, and sticking with the candy theme, it looks like a confectioner dipped it in granulated sugar.

    Robert Parker

    November 14, 2018 at 5:26 PM

    • A very cold and unsweet granulated sugar it is, but sweetly photogenic.

      Straggler daisy plants are small (as are their flower heads) and stay low, but they readily form colonies and make an excellent native ground cover. They cover patches of ground in various parts of Great Hills Park, including adjacent to many of the frostweed plants.

      I wasn’t sure why temperature in the teens is “high school weather.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2018 at 5:41 PM

      • Oh, just attempting a tiny joke on being in your teens, as in teenage years. Obviously didn’t go over too well!

        Robert Parker

        November 14, 2018 at 6:17 PM

        • Silly me. There’s nothing wrong with your play on words. I just took it too literally and had visions of high school students at nighttime football games in the winter.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 14, 2018 at 6:52 PM

  4. How cool and beautiful! I’d never heard of this. Thanks for the link to your previous explanation and images. Definitely worth your early trek.

    Ellen Jennings

    November 14, 2018 at 5:33 PM

    • Agreed. As much as I don’t like the cold, I make myself go out in it for the sake of witnessing this strange phenomenon. The teacher in me is always ready to explain things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2018 at 2:57 AM

  5. Wow!!! That is so neat!

    M.B. Henry

    November 14, 2018 at 5:38 PM

    • It is. It’s a great botanical phenomenon, yet unknown to many people who live in the species’ range. I was unaware of frostweed ice during my first two decades in Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2018 at 5:43 PM

  6. You did it again! I love seeing this phenomenon! Plants are amazing sometimes.


    November 14, 2018 at 7:20 PM

    • I’ve been fortunate these last years to keep on documenting frostweed ice, sometimes more than once in a season. Let’s spread the word about this natural wonder.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2018 at 8:00 PM

  7. I have never seen frostweed around here but I find it utterly fascinating!


    November 14, 2018 at 8:44 PM

  8. Beautiful!


    November 14, 2018 at 10:46 PM

  9. A lovely phenomenon!


    November 15, 2018 at 3:35 PM

    • It is indeed, and I get to enjoy it in my neighborhood.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2018 at 3:41 PM

      • I sometimes find it in the forest.


        November 15, 2018 at 4:25 PM

        • So is there a plant in the forest near you that extrudes ice like this?

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 15, 2018 at 4:41 PM

          • I have checked it out, and my observations are hair ice or ice wool instead. They look the same to the eye I think, but mine grows out of dead wood.


            November 16, 2018 at 9:15 AM

            • Thanks for checking. Yes, that’s a different phenomenon. I’ve heard about it but not seen it in person.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 16, 2018 at 11:18 AM

              • It looks very much like your photos.


                November 16, 2018 at 1:59 PM

                • It’s interesting that different mechanisms can produce similar-looking results.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 16, 2018 at 4:40 PM

                • Nature is the source of many mysteries!


                  November 16, 2018 at 4:57 PM

  10. I remember this from last winter. It is so weird. It does not happen here of course.


    November 15, 2018 at 7:14 PM

    • No, only a few species do that ice trick; people in the southeastern states are fortunate to have frostweed to perform it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2018 at 9:21 PM

      • Even if we had a species to do it, we lack the frost.
        You know, the lawns are slightly crunchy in the morning! I sort of pretend that it really gets cold here. It does not last long, and not much gets frozen.


        November 15, 2018 at 11:46 PM

        • Right. If all you get is a bit of crunchiness, that wouldn’t be cold enough. It seems that for frostweed ice, there has to be at least a little actual freezing.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 16, 2018 at 7:01 AM

          • Well, that won’t happen here. If there are plants that are capable of doing so, we will never know.


            November 17, 2018 at 10:40 AM

  11. Nature is amazing … 🙂


    November 19, 2018 at 11:11 AM

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