A Focus on One Ice Flower


Dr. James R. Carter, Professor

Geography-Geology Department

Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790


  This page builds on my page on my discovery of Ice Flowers, or Ice Ribbons, or Frost Flowers at Big Ridge State Part in East Tennessee in December 2004.  On my previous page I show a number of ice formations that I encountered on my hike.  Here are four images of a single ice flower.  On that previous page I show a photo pair with the image on the left being the blossom of ice at the base of the long stem and on the right the upper part of the stem.  The total height of this stem was close to 8 feet, or 240 cm. 

The view below is looking at the ice formation from a low oblique angle.  There is ice up on the central stem but I cannot tell if there is any ice further down the stem before the large blossom of ice at the base.  There appears to be ice attached to the small stem at the back of the photo.  The green leaves are honeysuckle.

Below is a photo from a high oblique angle, looking down on the blossom.  To give perspective I placed a pen beside the blossom.  The pen is 5.5 inches (13 cm) long.  In nature the white of the ice stands apart in great contrast to all other features which are much darker.  Thus, as shown in the photo below, the ice appears white and it is hard to see much of the detail of the ice formation.

To find more detail in the photos, I cropped the image and applied many techniques to bring out details.  Adjusting the color curves produced the image below.  In this image one can see many fine layers of ice in near parallel bands at the bottom of the photo.  These bands of fine layers appear to form a triangle, with the layers coming together in creases at the corners of the triangle.  These fine layers remind me of phyllo--the paper thin layers of pastry. 

In the image above, the complexity of the ice in the upper half of the image is evident.  In the upper right side of the ice are small beads of water showing that the ice is melting.

The brownish image below does a good job of showing the ice on the stem and the many layers of ice that form the hole. 

These images of this specific formation of ice around the base of a tall plant tell me much.  The temperature was above freezing and some melting was taking place.  There had been many cold days before this day.  Surely, these ice formations are not relic formations of weeks earlier.  It is possible that they had survived a couple of days of cold temperatures because it had been quite cold for the preceding two days.

What processes force the ice out in thin, parallel layers that wrap around to form a donut?  Is it possible that the lower, right corner of the triangle above is a junction of ice coming together from different directions?  Or, did the ice extrude out toward the lower left, then get bent to the right and then get bent again back toward the stem?

Ah, there is much I want to learn about the nature of these formations of ice.  If anyone has insights about how these form please let me know. 


return to my master page on Ice Flowers, or Ice Ribbons

one of the pages of Dr. James R. Carter