What is frostweed? Unique ice formations seen in Central Texas

Weather Blog

(KXAN) — KXAN viewer Seth Willis sent in multiple photos of a strange ice formation that occurred this Friday morning. This plant is called frostweed and is native to Central Texas.

Also known as Verbesina virginica, this plant is capable of producing strange ice sculptures under the right conditions.

Also called frost flowers or iceweed, frostweed forms when air temperatures are below freezing but the ground still is warm enough for the plant’s root system to be active. Frostweed also requires high humidity.

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, moisture in the plant flows from these roots up into the stem, where the cold air freezes them. As the moisture in the plant freezes, it expands, and the ice crystals push out through the stem.

  • KXAN viewer Seth Willis sent in multiple photos of a strange ice formation that occurred this Friday morning. (Courtesy: Seth Willis)
  • KXAN viewer Seth Willis sent in multiple photos of a strange ice formation that occurred this Friday morning. (Courtesy: Seth Willis)

Trees and stemmed plants are covered with tiny tubes filled with water that act sort of like veins. When the air is really humid and just below freezing, the water that’s at the end of these tubes freezes and expands, turning into ice. 

The ice may emerge from a small slit in the plant to form thin ribbon-like strands or they may split open a whole section of the stem and push out in a thin, curling sheet. Sometimes, several ribbons of ice push out to create a flower-like petal effect.

KXAN viewer Adam Booker also sent in photos of the unique plant.

  • KXAN viewer Adam Booker sent in multiple photos of a strange ice formation that occurred this Friday morning. (Courtesy: Adam Booker)
  • KXAN viewer Adam Booker sent in multiple photos of a strange ice formation that occurred this Friday morning. (Courtesy: Adam Booker)
  • KXAN viewer Seth Willis sent in multiple photos of a strange ice formation that occurred this Friday morning. (Courtesy: Seth Willis)
  • KXAN viewer Adam Booker sent in multiple photos of a strange ice formation that occurred this Friday morning. (Courtesy: Adam Booker)
  • KXAN viewer Adam Booker sent in multiple photos of a strange ice formation that occurred this Friday morning. (Courtesy: Adam Booker)
  • KXAN viewer Adam Booker sent in multiple photos of a strange ice formation that occurred this Friday morning. (Courtesy: Adam Booker)

If you are not familiar with where to see frostweed in your neighborhood, there are several colonies at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Be sure to look for it before temperatures warm back above freezing after sunrise on Tuesday morning.

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