Discover Nature: Watch For Frost Flowers During Early Autumn
Take an early morning hike in the late autumn air this week and Discover Nature in Missouri’s most fleeting flower - that isn’t really a flower at all.
Frost flowers are delicate white blossoms that occur during the first hard frosts each fall when moisture squeezes through cracks in the stem and freezes into frosty Wribbons, rosebuds or other artistic looking shapes.
Autumn rain and early frosts favor their formation, because they form when the water that is sucked out of the soil by a plant’s root section meets above ground temperatures that are below freezing. If you’ve ever seen water pipes burst in the winter, the concept is basically the same – cold air freezes the moisture inside the plant and bursts it open. Air bubbles in the ice give the flower its white appearance.
Though most people think a plant must be completely dead to form a frost flower, the underground portion of the plant must still be alive in order for the stem to develop a frost flower, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Native Missouri wildflowers that mature late in the year, such as yellow ironweed and white crownbeard are good frost flower prospects. This is just one small benefit of choosing native Missouri plants for your property. Dittany is also a reliable producer, but frost flowers grow on other plants, too.
To get the most out of your frost flower experience, take a camera with you on your nature hike and get all the shots you want of the bloom, taking care not to touch it.
Because frost flowers are delicate and almost weightless, they shatter when touched. Like a snowflake, you’ll never see the same frost flower twice, so look for them early in the day before they melt in the morning sun.