Take a walk in the early morning, in the late fall or early winter, at or after the first hard freeze and you just might see a frost flower.
Frost flowers are a group of delicate clusters of ice crystals that form directly from water vapor. They are produced when freezing weather conditions are present, but the ground is not yet frozen. The water in certain plant stems begins to freeze and expand, resulting in long, thin cracks along the length of the stem. Through a process called “capillary action” (the ability of water to flow in narrow spaces without assistance), water is drawn through these cracks and freezes upon contact with the frigid air. The form the flower takes depends on where the slits are in the stem and the amount of pressure exerted, so each flower is unique.
Interesting side note: Leonardo di Vinci was the first to record the observation of capillary action.
As more water is drawn through the cracks, the thin ice layers are pushed farther from the stem resulting in the formation of a thin “petal.”
Another form of frost flower is called needle ice. These are needle-shaped columns of ice formed by groundwater when the soil temperature is above freezing, but the surface air temperature is below freezing. In the same capillary action, water is forced up out of the ground, growing into these needle-like columns.
Frost flowers are very delicate and will break when touched. They melt when exposed to sunlight and are found in shaded areas in the early morning hours.
Frost flowers aren’t found everywhere, but can be found where annual plants with thin stems such as frostweed are found.
A frost flower is created by the internal pressures and forces exerted upon its host plant. It is fragile, short-lived. Neither it nor the host plant survive the winter’s “death” and will not live again in the spring. But we are placed under divine pressure so that those things that must be removed from our lives, enabling us to “die” and be born again into a beautiful new creation, can be accomplished.
“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12 NASB
Sources: Wikipedia and Phys.org