Before the ground freezes but air temperatures are below freezing can result in the woodland phenomenon known as ‘Frost Flowers’.
Frost flowers are thin layers of ice which are extruded from long-stemmed plants in autumn or early winter. The thin layers of ice are often formed into exquisite patterns that curl into “petals” that resemble flowers, or an abstract Christmas angel as is the case in this photo.
The formation of frost flowers, also known as “ice flowers,” is dependent on a freezing weather condition occurring when the ground is not already frozen. The sap in the stem of the plants will expand (water expands when frozen), causing long, thin cracks to form along the length of the stem. Water is then drawn through these cracks via capillary action and freezes upon contact with the air. As more water is drawn through the cracks it pushes the thin ice layers further from the stem, causing a thin “petal” to form.
The petals of frost flowers are very delicate and will break when touched. They usually melt when exposed to sunlight and are usually visible in the early morning or in shaded areas.