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Gallery of Frost Flowers

Frost flowers occur when still-living green plant tissue freezes and the sap is extruded in long, unbroken strands. (Around here that's generally in November.) The only species in our area that regularly does this is Wild Oregano (Cunila origanoides) a small, strongly-scented inhabitant (it smells like oregano) of dry, upland woods. No one knows why the plant responds this way to freezing temperatures (my guess is it's just a happy coincidence of climate and the plant's biochemistry) but the results can be spectacular.

So as winter descends southward stay alert for frost warnings in your area and if you're lucky you can catch a glimpse of a fleeting - but spectacular - harbinger of winter.

2005 Photos of Frost Flowers

frost_flower_b_formation (24K) Mary Alice Beer of Fairfield Bay, Arkansas sent the following pictures and this note:

I'm fortunate to have approximately 90 Dittany (Cunila origanoides) and two Frostweed/White Crown-beard (Verbisina virginica) plants in my backyard - both species are highly encouraged during the growing season!

My main interest is studying and documenting the flora of Arkansas but these beauties help span the few months when there is nothing overtly blooming.

I Just realized all I've sent were found at the base of Dittany plants. So - the last one - a nice formation at the base of the Frostweed plant.

Well named, don't you think?

frost_flower_b_battle (25K)
Battle of the Frost Giants - Or Waltzing Couple?
frost_flower_b_biggg (25K)
Bigggg horned animal
frost_flower_b_casper (23K)
Casper and Friends
frost_flower_b_base (18K) Frostflowers on Frostweed
Photos Copyright © 2005 Mary Alice Beer. All rights reserved.

Rhonda Caruso of Taney County, Missouri sent the following pictures and this note:

Was looking at your site and thought perhaps I would share these pics of ironweed this year.....and amazingly I did not know about frost flowers.

Ed. note: We asked her how she knew it was ironweed (Vernonia) and she replied:

My neighbor that lives across the street is 96 years old. She has lived there over 30 years. This was taken in her back yard. She is the one who told me it was ironweed. I realize the many varieties. I have a great interest in flowers and wildflowers as my yard is full of them!

Frostflowers on Ironweed, Vernonia
ironweed_c_a (33K)
ironweed_c_b (33K)
Photos copyright © 2005 Rhonda Caruso. All rights reserved.

2004 Photos of Frost Flowers

In her inimitable fashion, Ruby saved the first photo below that a generous reader sent us, but she didn't save the e-mail. To get the credit you deserve, please contact us again!

Thanks to Steve Haskins of Athens, Ohio for the other three pictures!

Frost Flowers on Wild Oregano, cotton candy Frost Flowers on Wild Oregano, streamers
Photo Copyright © 2004 Mystery Reader.
All rights reserved.
Photo Copyright © 2004 Steve Haskins.
All rights reserved.
Frost Flowers on Wild Oregano Frost Flowers on Wild Oregano, Calla Lilly
Photos Copyright © 2004 Steve Haskins. All rights reserved.

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The information on this page is tailored to Southern Illinois, Southwest Indiana, Western Kentucky, and Southeast Missouri

Copyright © 2004, 2005 Jim Jung