Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Frost "flowers"

Isn't this pretty nifty?  Pretty apropos for our fridgid weather right now.  Although called a frost flower, it is neither frost nor flower.  This is a thin ribbon of ice extruded from the dead aerial stem of a wingstem.  TPP supposes that the living root system is still taking in water, and root pressure is pushing it upward in the xylem.  Above ground it freezes ruptures the stem and as more water is pushed upward, the ribbon continues to grow. Dr. Jim Carter at ISU has a lot of pictures of these on his web pages.  Unfortunately this is not one of TPP's images, it was just published on the front page of The Harbinger (Dec. 2017, 34(4)), the latest issue of the Illinois Native Plant Society's newsletter, and it remains behind (way behind) a membership firewall on their web page.  TPP has plenty of wingstem, but has never seen it do this.  And now it is too bloody cold.  

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