Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Silk Frost, Ice Ribbons and Frost Flowers.

What on earth is that?!
Have you seen anything like this before?  I never had until this morning as I was headed out to run some errands and spotted this in the garden.  There was nothing else around it that looked remotely like it, no frost, it hadn't snowed and being a lover of such mysteries I wanted to find out what it was. 

As I got closer I was amazed at what I saw...ribbons of ice wrapping around the cut stems of my Chocolate Eupatorium...and no where else in the garden.  It looked amazingly like spun silk or spun sugar ribbons.  I touched it to see if it was soft in case it was some strange fungus...you know how odd those can be, but it was hard, it was definitely ice.
Well, will ya look at that!
I did a little digging and found the term used for these are "silk frost" "frost flowers" or "ice ribbons".  The thing that has me stumped now is why did they only form on this one species and not in other areas of the garden?
What a curiosity, only on the Eupatorium 'Chocolate'
No wonder people believed in fairies!
It almost looks like tissue or a fine veil that became entangled in the stems but it's not...it really is ice.  I just love the garden, its wonders and mysteries, especially beautiful mysteries like this.

Of course me being the nerdy girl that I am I had to know why.  After some quick digging I found the reason for these formations seems to stem from the moisture coming out of the stems or wood of the plants.  You can watch how they form in this video.

Dr. James R. Carter, Professor Emeritus, Geography-Geology Department at Illinois State University actually wrote a paper on it called "Ice Ribbons or whatever they might be called" (gotta love that title).  It includes more photos and links to other related information like needle ice.

So now I can say I have a new resident of sorts in my winter garden, ice flowers or silk frost or ice ribbons or whatever they call them.

Happy Gardening!

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  1. Wow, that is lovely! And--I adore the title of the professor's paper! ;-) Thanks for sharing!