Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The change from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning

with 45 comments

From Monday’s weather forecast I learned that the overnight temperature into Tuesday morning would drop a few degrees below freezing. Sure enough, when I checked the thermometer early Tuesday morning it read 29°. Equally sure enough, that meant I had to dress warmly and go out into the cold for the season’s first possible pictures of frostweed ice. I drove the half-mile to my usual stand of plants (Verbesina virginica) in Great Hills Park and found—nada. Despite the freeze, not a single frostweed plant had produced ice.

On Wednesday morning the thermometer read 32° and I gave the project a second try. This time a couple of dozen frostweed plants had woken up and remembered what they’re supposed to do when the temperature drops to freezing, and they did it, as these two photographs confirm. The second image is more abstract, which I consider a good thing in my quest for different ways to photograph a familiar subject.

If the frostweed ice phenomenon is new to you, you’re welcome to look back at previous posts to learn more.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 14, 2019 at 4:41 AM

45 Responses

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  1. As yet we here in middle England have yet to experience our first frost of the winter. Perhaps that is just as well as everywhere is just so wet some places flooded. The rich autumn colour never really came.. apart from sunshine they also needed that touch of frost. It has been a strange year.


    November 14, 2019 at 5:42 AM

    • That does seem upside down: not yet any frost in middle England at a latitude of around 53°N, while we’ve had frost in central Texas at latitude 30°N. Strange indeed, and unfortunate for your accustomed enjoyment of fall foliage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2019 at 6:59 AM

  2. Your frost weed photos always fascinate me.


    November 14, 2019 at 5:58 AM

    • They fascinate me, too. So much so that you won’t be surprised to hear that what I show here is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

      This may be the first time ever that consecutive comments have come from folks in England.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2019 at 7:04 AM

  3. Oh, that frostweed! Mine is still green and intact, but I love it when the ice plant cometh. Beautiful shots; you caught that ribbon effect perfectly.


    November 14, 2019 at 7:42 AM

    • Your exclamation could just as well have been mine: “Oh, that frostweed!” And likewise for your wordplay in “the ice plant cometh” (provided we’re not talking about the alien ice plant that has spread over so much of the California coast).

      Are your frostweed plants protected somewhat from the cold by overhanging trees or something else that keeps them a little warmer? I’m wondering why plants only a few miles apart would behave differently. Of course I still don’t know what the same plants behaved differently from one night to the next.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2019 at 8:00 AM

  4. Of course I had my fingers crossed when I was tracking the freeze line. I knew you’d have the temperatures. The only question was whether you’d have cooperative plants. You surely did, and not only that, you managed a rather different take on the frostweed’s ice in that second photo. I really like it, and its similarity to a frayed bit of ribbon.


    November 14, 2019 at 7:44 AM

    • Alluding to a familiar alternation in different plants from the same botanical family, we can say of Lady Frostweed that Tuesday morning was a “she loves me not,” while Wednesday morning was a resounding “she loves me.” Where the second picture suggested a ribbon to Tina and to you (who added fraying), mathy me was taken with the kinds of curves the ice formed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2019 at 8:10 AM

  5. I’lll bet there aren’t a lot of Texans happy to see freezing temperatures down there, and you have certainly made the most of them here. Like you, I particularly like the curves in the abstract image.
    Like David, we had so much water during the summer and fall that we didn’t get much color to speak of and now, with the water so close (or at) the surface, we have an abundance of ice. I’m pretty much hibernating.


    November 14, 2019 at 8:30 AM

    • With conditions like those that you described, my body would be happy to hibernate, too, but my mind would overcome the body’s reluctance for the sake of ice pictures. That’s what happens to me here, where ice is most often limited to the curls that frostweed produces. Although my body is normally susceptible to cold, while I was out doing my pictures yesterday morning I never felt the cold, probably because I kept moving around and was so caught up in my picture-taking.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2019 at 8:37 AM

      • I have noticed that, too. When my mind is engaged physical discomfort fades away.


        November 14, 2019 at 8:44 AM

  6. Physical discomfort succumbs to photography in a surprising number of us. That’s our particular bit of craziness. Or, more likely, true sanity. I really really like the second one. Reminds me of stratification.

    Michael Scandling

    November 14, 2019 at 9:13 AM

    • Ah yes, I’ll admit to craziness for the sake of photography. Whether vanity or sanity, who knows?

      As someone fond of stratification in rocks, I welcome your connection of that to this striated ice. The first picture is an overview of the phenomenon as a whole. For some years now, that has been less interesting to me than more-abstract views like the second, which I concentrated on yesterday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2019 at 10:09 AM

      • I see an interesting future ahead of you in abstracts.

        Michael Scandling

        November 14, 2019 at 10:13 AM

        • I hope you’re right. Actually I’ve been doing abstractions for quite a while, along with other kinds of photographs. I just clicked the “abstract” tag for my posts and WordPress pulled up a long scroll that ran to 50 “pages,” each with a half-dozen or so posts. I’ll grant you that the degree of abstraction varies, and I may sometimes have used the term more loosely than you would. I’ve sometimes also used the tag “minimalist,’ which is likewise a term that’s open to interpretation.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 14, 2019 at 11:12 AM

  7. Frost weed is unfamiliar to me, although frost is well-known in our area. That you hit the freezing mark in Texas was a surprise to me much more than the high quality of your photos, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    November 14, 2019 at 11:28 AM

    • Frostweed’s scientific name points to the American state of Virginia. The plant has been confirmed as far north as Iowa but does not grow anywhere in Canada, so there’s no reason why you’d be familiar with it.

      The temperature in central Texas does indeed dip below freezing in late fall and winter, though on all but the rarest occasions it comes back up above freezing by afternoon. We get a bit of snow here once every five years or so, but it normally melts within hours.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2019 at 11:42 AM

      • That sounds like your kind of paradise to me, Steve.

        Peter Klopp

        November 14, 2019 at 12:00 PM

        • It suits me well in most ways. Still, on strictly esthetic grounds, I sometimes envy the pictures of snow and ice that photographers are able to make in places that have a real winter.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 14, 2019 at 12:06 PM

  8. Wonderful phenomenon! Thanks for all your photos of it!

    Nan Hampton

    November 14, 2019 at 11:36 AM

    • You’re welcome. When I mentioned to you on Tuesday morning that I was disappointed the frostweed plants near me hadn’t done anything, I still hoped for a second chance on Wednesday. That’s what I got, and came away with plenty of pictures to prove it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2019 at 11:45 AM

  9. Excellent shots, and I’m just fascinated by this frostweed.
    I also enjoyed your “Dwindling Party” exchange with Michael, you guys are funny.

    Robert Parker

    November 14, 2019 at 1:48 PM

    • It fascinates me, too. For about half the time I’ve lived in Austin I knew nothing about frostweed ice, nor do most people here, I think, even though the plant is common. I look forward to the ice trick every November.

      Now that I think of it, the game of musical chairs is a kind of “dwindling party.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2019 at 3:51 PM

      • That phrase comes from Edward Gorey, who always did those wonderful mock-Victorian cartoons and books, kind of like Charles Addams.

        Robert Parker

        November 14, 2019 at 4:17 PM

  10. Great that you found your quarry. I am not sure ours should have the same name as I have yet to find it with frosty curls. Maybe this weekend.

    Steve Gingold

    November 14, 2019 at 4:21 PM

    • Happy hunting this weekend. The Texas kind of frostweed hasn’t proved a difficult quarry, as I know where plants grow right in my neighborhood.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2019 at 6:29 PM

  11. Not a new phenomenon, but completely intriguing nonetheless.


    November 14, 2019 at 9:33 PM

  12. Frostweed was new to me so thanks for the link. We have hoarfrost here once in a while – it amazed me when I first saw it, heaving out of a plant. I don’t know if I’ll be brave enough to get out in it, but below-freezing weather is forecast for later this week. I must try!! 😉


    November 24, 2019 at 11:59 AM

    • Yes, go for it! As much as I dislike the cold, I found that during my hour photographing frostweed ice I was moving around enough and intent enough on my pictures that I never felt cold. It probably helped that I dressed warmly in the first place, as you can too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 24, 2019 at 3:44 PM

  13. These are eerie. I remember those from last year.


    November 26, 2019 at 11:04 PM

    • I’ve experienced this phenomenon for so many years now that I don’t remember if I thought it eerie at first. I’ve described it as strange, including as a tag on this post.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2019 at 7:24 AM

      • From my limited experience, snow on distant mountains is eerie. I grew up with it only off in the distance like that, but not where we actually lived. We get frosts here, but they are very mild frosts. The worst frost in recorded history was on Christmas Eve in 1990. It broke water pipes because we do not bother to bury them deep enough to be safe from frost. I was fresh out of college and lost more than 60% of our crops.


        November 29, 2019 at 7:44 PM

        • That’s a sorry experience to have had.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 29, 2019 at 8:47 PM

          • Well, it was not as bad as the citrus grower who I worked for later. Only their stock plants survived, and they were severely damaged.


            November 29, 2019 at 10:16 PM

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