JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — If you’re out exploring Missouri’s vast expanse of nature early in the morning this time of year, you may run across something as beautiful as it is rare.
They’re called frost flowers, and they’re not here to stay.
Frost flowers are delicate ribbons of ice that bloom around the stems of only a few specific plants, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. They spring up when the temperature drops below freezing during the night but while plants are still active.
These formations are created when the freezing temperatures causes the stems of these plants to rupture. At the same time, the root system is still pumping nutrients through their sap up the stem. The sap leaks out and freezes instantly, creating delicate ice ribbons. Sap continues to flow, and the frost flower continues to grow.
Yet, just like frost, the flowers melt quickly as the day warms the ground.
According to the MDC, this phenomenon only happens with dittany, stinkweed and white crownbeard. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why only these plants produce frost flowers, but they think it has something to do with root systems that remain active later in the year than other plants.
These plants don’t remain active forever, either. Soon they will close their systems, and the possibility to see frost flowers will come to an end for the year.
The MDC recommends finding where these plants grow naturally and watching the temperature to determine when a hard freeze is coming.
Then, take your camera and go frost flower hunting! But you better hurry because, soon, it will be too late.