Frost Flower

April 17, 2009


Photographer: Tommy Hornbeck
Summary Authors: Tommy Hornbeck, Jim Foster

The beautiful photo above shows an intriguing and intricate frost flower.

Frost flowers aren't flowers at all, and well, they're not even frost. They occasionally form after the season's first heavy freeze kills a small plant. Even though the leafy matter is dead, the root system continues pumping water up through the stem -- by capillary action. When water reaches ruptures in the stem it leaks out and freezes instantly. As more and more water moves up through the stem, the ice is forced away from the plant and into an infinite number of odd shapes. Frost flowers are exceedingly fragile and the petals often break when touched and disappear the moment they're exposed to the first rays of the morning Sun.