Garrett’s Blog: Frost Flowers; The Unusual Ice On Plants

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The first time I saw a frost flower was back in 2007 when I was camping in the Buffalo National Park. All over the ground appeared to be pieces of white paper, or napkins? Trash?

Once I got a little closer I noticed it was frozen. What was this thing and how did it form?

Turns out these are called “frost flowers” and they usually form during the first hard freeze of the Fall season.

These pictures were sent into me from the Little Clifty Arm on Beaver Lake from Joe Paul.

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When the first hard freeze of the season occurs (like last weekend) many of the plants around our area still have liquid water in the stems.

As the water freezes it expands and eventually forms a crack or break in the steam. The water inside begins to push out and immediately freezes on contact with the air.

Because of capillary action, water is drawn upward against gravity from the roots and the soil and continues to ooze and push out of the stem. The frost continues to grow as more water is pushed out and freezes. The shapes are often elaborate and curly.

The best time to see these is early in the morning around sunrise. Because the ice is so thin in melts rapidly.

-Garrett