Weather conditions around British Columbia’s South Coast have been ideal to capture stunning photographs of frost flowers in recent days.
These frost flowers, also known as “hair ice,” look soft to the touch but they are actually brittle, thin layers of ice.
They occur in moist conditions when the temperatures drops below freezing. However, there are two different ways they can be created.
The first way they can form is in the stems or branches of plants and trees where the ground is still moist. The moisture inside the branch or stem expands as it begins to freeze. This ruptures the sides of the stem or branch and creates cracks.
Slowly this moisture gets pushed out the cracks and freezes as it hits the cold air. The plant continues to draw moisture up from the ground and this moisture continues to get pushed out of the tiny cracks.
The result is thin layers of ice which look like ribbon, flowers or hair. The thickness and width of this ice depends on the size of the crack or slit in the stem or branch. The ice often curls due to friction as it gets pushed out.
The second way they can form is on very wet dead and decomposing logs or branches. When the moisture inside the branch is pushed outside as it expands and freezes, a certain fungus present in the log causes the ice to form like very fine hair. The ice would have formed anyway, however, it would have been a crust-like structure.