A friend of mine shared this photo with me. I first noticed “frost flowers” during a stay at White Rock Mountain in late fall a few years ago. Lisa and I stayed in one of the very rustic cabins with no heat besides a fireplace. Shortly after arriving, we took a short hike on the Ozark Highlands Trail below the top of the mountain, enjoying the crisp air and smell of the forest that was starting to embrace the coming winter. Once night fell, to stay warm, we pulled the mattress out of the bedroom and put it on the floor by the fireplace. I then woke up every couple of hours and “stoked” the fire. In the morning, after breakfast, we headed out on a walk along the rim trail. Frost flowers were in full bloom. They covered the rocky, forest floor all along the trail and held our attention more than the incredible views.
Another friend recently shared this information on the phenomenon. (thanks Debbie)
Frost flowers form on herbaceous (die back to the ground in winter) perennial (live through multiple growing seasons) plants that mature in late season. Their stems have porous pith that can provide for a steady supply of water and dissolved minerals from the roots. For the fragile frost flowers to form, the vascular system of a plant must be initially functioning. With the first hard freeze, expanding and freezing sap places increasing pressure on the epidermis (outer layer) of a plant so that it splits along the stem following the structure of plant fiber. When sap makes contact with frigid air, it freezes instantly into ice slivers along the stem. As the sap (ice) exits the plant, additional sap is drawn up the plant’s stem from the roots via capillary action.
Feel free to share photos of Frost Flowers you see on our Facebook page.