Lifestyles

Finding fanciful frost freaks

Call a plumber! Water is bursting its pipes near the forest floor, squishing out from tiny cracks and freezing into dazzling ice formations!

Meet the frosted fantasies known as ice blossoms.

Science calls them ‘crystallo-folia’ – created on winter mornings when stem water bursts from fissures or pores in woody branches.

This extrusion freezes instantly into minuscule layers of ice, creating designs that twist and bend into chilled sculptures attached to the stem – also known as ice fringes, frost flowers or frost wings.

Optimal morning weather conditions must occur for this magic to happen; atmospheric temperature must be freezing or colder, but the soil must be unfrozen.

Ground water moves from the roots, up the plant stem until it reaches a crack (more correctly, an epidermis rupture in the bark), whereupon it leaks out and freezes.

This process continues, with new water oozing out to push the previous ice formation, forming curiously curved crystalline fibres.

Ordinary, everyday winter frost is created by water vapour, whereas ice blossoms form out of liquid water.

Composed of thin frozen sheets, these natural ice sculptures melt quickly as the sun rises, but take heart, for they often replenish the next day.

Search for them near the ground in the morning shade, on damp nature trails.

These icy curls – like bubble-thin crystal – may shatter when handled, so are best enjoyed by observation and photography.

 

PHOTO CONTEST: Find and photograph an ice blossom (and email to wildernesswest@shaw.ca) to win a signed copy of my trail-guide: Nature Campbell River.

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