Interesting Ice Formations in my yard, Fall 2008
This is one of a collection of web pages showing what are sometimes called Ice Flowers, Frost Flowers and Ice Ribbons growing on vertical plant stems. Since first accidentally finding such ice in 2003 I have been on a search to find the right plants on the right days to see such ice. I learned about a few of the plants are likely to support the growth of ice and tried to see if I could grow those plants.
In summer 2007 I planted seeds of White Crownbeard, Verbesina virginica, in my yard in central Illinois and I found success. I also found ice on a stem of Salvia in my yard last year. So, in summer 2008 I planted White Crownbeard and a similar yellow flower and three varieties of Salvia.
This is one of three pages showing ice in my yard this fall. Another shows ice formations in two places (in and near buckets and beside trees and tall shrubs) on White Crownbeard stems.
The other shows ice formations that grew on stems of Salvia and Vinca. These are nice flowering plants that exist in many gardens. Check this out, then look at your garden next fall and see if you have such ice.
It proved to be an interesting fall. I had ice on the stems of White Crownbeard and no ice on the yellow varient. All three varieties of Salvia produced ice formations, but one much later than the other two. And, I had ice on Vinca, a common flower planted for the beauty of the flower but surprisingly I found ice on its stems in November.
I have seen that ice forms on cutoff stems as well as on full lenght stems, although the appearance of the ice may take on different forms. So, to experience both possibilities I cut off some of the stems a few inches above the ground, and left many intact. The photo below shows my patch of stems growing in the middle of the yard, away from trees and the house. Both types of Verbesina are growing here but ice formed only on Verbesina virginica - White Crownbeard.
Below are close up photos of those two little ice formations. It is interesting that this ice formed on green stems because weeks later after the plants died these same stems continued to support the growth of ice.
This patch of tall and cutoff stems of Verbesina produced many interesting displays of ice through the fall. The photo pair shows the same two stems of White Crownbeard, Verbesina virginica, separated by 19 hours.
On the night of November 9 I found ice growing from a number of plants throughout my yard. It had been almost two weeks since I first found any ice, and now it was growing in many places. I took a few photos late at night with flash. The growths of ice were underway. But, the next morning in better light I was able to photograph many interesting growths of ice such as this scoop of ice below.
This scoop of ice was perhaps 2 inches, 5 cm, long. I spent more time taking photos than making measurements and recording them so I am trying to estimate sizes relative to other objects in the photos. Subsequently, close examination of these photos at the largest scales brings out things I did not see when I took the photos. The photo below is an example of this. Here a portion of the photo above is shown at a much larger scale.
A couple of weeks later I found this interesting formation of ice in this same area. In the photo below you can see multiple ribbons growing out the stem. What I find most interesting in this photo is the ribbon-candy like growth in the center of the larger ice formation. Is it possible that this single ribbon grew away from the stem only to bump into a piece of fellow ribbon, forcing it to fold into these overlapping ribbons?
This candy-ribbon is but the center of a very complicated ice formation at a variety of scales. In this photo the stem from which the ice grows is obscured by the branch or blade of dry grass. But, we see that the ice that grew out from the stem wrapped around to make a circle. We can see that there are a number of fine strands of ice that are only linked to the main feature in one or two places.
The ribbons of ice are formed by super cooled water penetrating through the stems of the plant and freezing in the colder air when they encounter an ice crystal. The water continues to move up the stems to feed the growing ribbons of ice.
Frost by contrast comes about when water vapor in the air becomes saturated and is deposited on a surface as an ice crystal. If the air temperatures are above freezing we get the formation of dew, but when it is below freezing the moisture is deposited out of the air as frost. In the photo above and in the one below you can see that frost has been deposited on the ribbons of ice as well as the leaves and blades of grass. So, I must assume that the ribbons of ice were formed or at least partially formed before the heavy deposition of frost.
This collection of photos was taken in a small patch of stems of White Crownbeard and a similar plant with yellow petals. However, I never found any ice on the known stems of the yellow-flowering plant so I must assume all of this ice was on the White Crownbeard.
I found much more ice this fall, but those photos will appear on other pages. Stay tuned, more is coming.
Thank goodness for the Internet and digital cameras for they let us exchange information about these attractive ice formations. With time I hope to expand the web site to portray other views from this interesting month of ice. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you see any ice of this nature in your early morning outings. See http://www.ilstu.edu/~jrcarter/ice/ for my master page on ice flowers / ice ribbons
One of the many web pages of Dr. Jim Carter
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