Thursday, November 2, 2017

Frost Flowers of Late Fall

 There is a briskness in the air that foretells of colder days to come. The wind cuts through our clothes like sharp knives. Nights are becoming longer as the days get shorter when winter winds its way to our homes.
   Driving down the highway we've noticed daylillies are re-blooming and not just those that have been genetically engineered to do so, but wild ones that give an unexpected spot of color to the roadside. Why, I'm not sure. Others have attributed it to this year's frequent rains with a long span of days before we have a hard freeze.
   A friend asked me the other day if we left home during the winter. The answer is no, we tough it out and enjoy the privilege of complaining about the weather.
   I love the changing seasons, even droopy late fall when you're rushing to pack away the porch and deck furniture. Empty the clay pots of summer, blooms, hill in plants for the winter, and turn pots upside down so water won't collect, freeze, and break them.
   Even a sudden deep freeze has an unexpected rare benefit.
Have you ever seen "frost flowers?"
   Some years ago Radine Trees, Arkansas mystery writer, posted some photos of them she had taken near her home in the Ozarks.
  We've seen them once, but didn't know what they were at the

time. It was very early morning in late November. The sun was rising after a night of a hard freeze. The sides of the road and fields were glittering with ribbons of ice spilling around plant stalks, even from the wooden fence posts.
   What happens is after a season of rain the grasses, plant stems, stalks, fence posts, and wooden deck railings are saturated with moisture. Then the vegetation is hit by a sudden deep freeze. The moisture within the plant freezes.
   Water expands in volume as it freezes to ice. The ice is too large to be contained in the veins of the plants. It is forced out through cracks and fissures in thin ribbons much like the hard holiday candy in hundreds of shapes and sizes creating a wonderland of beauty that lasts for an hour or so before the sun melts them.
   Go to Google Images and type in 'frost flowers.' You will see a large collection of photographs. I've included two from that source with this article for illustration. Many of the Google Images are from Africa, so maybe the perfect conditions are more frequent there than they are here on the Cumberland Plateau.
   For now our cameras are in the backseat ready to hand if we should be lucky enough to pass another display when we go into town for breakfast.
Nash Black, author of Forged Blade.   

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