By Janet Rowe, Hot Springs Village Audubon Society President
We are very fortunate in Hot Springs Village to have a natural habitat that supports a phenomenon often referred to as frost flowers. They do not occur everywhere, and it takes a certain type of plant and area for this to happen. Only particular types of wildflowers can support this, such as Purple Ironweed and White Crownbeard.
For frost flowers to occur, the ground temperature needs to be above freezing, and the air temperature needs to be below freezing. The plants are located by a water source, a creek, or an underground spring. The water and plant sap is still being sent up the stem of the plant from the root system, and as it hits the freezing air, it expands and splits the stem. As it continues to push the water/sap, it begins ribboning or layering out from the stem, and It creates an extremely thin layer of ice that resembles ribbons, flowers, or angel wings. The length of the split on the stem is the deciding factor in whether it is a narrow or a wide ribbon that forms.
No two frost flowers are identical, and they survive only until the air temperature rises, and the sun hits them. They are extremely delicate and will break apart if touched or if the plant is disturbed. Sometimes the plants will support only one “bloom,” If we are lucky, occasionally, there are times that frost flowers will form before the plant can no longer support itself.
While they are not everywhere in the Village, if you are walking on some of the trails or driving down some of the roadways and think that you are seeing discarded tissues or styrofoam in the weeds, chances are they are frost flowers.
Photography by Janet Rowe