Fall Frost Flowers

Fall is not my favorite time of year. Yes, the leaves are beautiful in their many hues. Yes, the cooler temperatures are a welcome respite from summer heat. Fall frost warns of cold moving in.
For me fall makes it hard to enjoy walking in the woods. I love the green plants and colorful flowers. I love warm air and not wearing layers of clothing plus a coat.

frosted gallium leaves

This gallium plant has its leaves edged in white frost lace.

Frost means dead plants, bare trees and slippery paths covered with dead leaves. Definitely a time to sit inside near the wood stove.
But frost has its attractions too. Killing frost has a special attraction.

leaf edged in frost

Each delicate lacy leaf lobe has its frost edging.

Hard frost freezes the dew on anything. In freezing the dew becomes little spikes edging leaves and leaf veins. They form delicate traceries on plant stalks.
Such frost pictures are common all winter. One isn’t.

seed head with ice spikes

Ice spikes fuzz out from the beggar lice in this Queen Anne’s Lace seed head.

The first real killing frost, the one down in the low to mid twenties, brings out the frost flowers.
The wild mint dittany is a reliable plant to make frost flowers. White crownbeard does too but grows along the road where the sun shines early in the day. Dittany is up in the woods.
Frost flowers last only a short time. The air must be cold. No hint of sun must touch these ice creations. No wind must go through to break their delicate ribbons.

frost flower

Dittany stems still have water in them when killing frost hits the Ozark hills. The water freezes splitting the stem allowing the ice to ooze out in an ice ribbon forming a frost flower.

The temperature was twenty-five degrees at dawn. Perfect.
Frost laid heavy on the ground so there was no wind. Perfect.
The sun was peaking over the hill but still hidden behind the trees. The world was light enough to see easily. Perfect.
The frost flowers were out in abundance on the hills.