Frost Flowers

At first glance, this may appear to be nothing but a white blob on the ground, but when you look closer, it’s a delicate weaving of ice crystals. It’s so fragile one touch will crumple it to the ground, and the first rays of morning sun quickly dissolve it away. It’s an ice sculpture formed by the hand of nature.

Frost flowers occur only on the first cold morning of winter, when the ground has not yet frozen, but the air temperature is below freezing. The plants’ root systems are still active drawing up moisture from the ground through their roots. When the moisture reaches the plant’s stem above ground, it freezes and expands. As is expands, it escapes out of cracks in the stem (much like toothpaste from a tube) forming sheets or strands of ice.

It’s a short lived show though, and melts away with the morning sun. Both Harland and I had heard of them before and seen pictures, but never thought we would see one. Over Christmas, we took a vacation to warmer parts of the country. Our first night was spent in a cabin Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas and early the next morning, we went for a walk on a wooded trail near a stream. As we rounded a corner, I saw what I first thought was a small pile of white fluff. As we neared it though, I held my breath, pointed at it and gasped,

“It’s one of those ice flower things!”

Harland looked and exclaimed, “Holy crap, it is!”

Then we hit the ground onto our bellies and proceeded to photograph it like it was an alien from outer space.

Luckily there wasn’t anyone else around. To the unsuspecting onlooker we would have appeared as this normal looking couple walking the trail, yelling and hitting the deck like they’d been fired upon.

We finally got back to our feet, and walked on only to find another, and another, and ultimately dozens of them. We hit the deck before several of them, photographing them from different angles.

This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we didn’t care what we looked like. But it was all worth it.

Have you ever seen frost flowers before?

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———> UP NEXT: Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas: A lovely old cabin, a flowing stream and waterfall in the woods.