Everyone is talking about it! It’s the plant of the week, the one everyone wants to know and hang out with! My own blog statistics show a dramatic spike in views of past posts written about it! What is this trending plant, the plant with the cool vibe? Well, it’s more than cool, it’s cold–it’s Frostweed, Verbesina virginica. Of course!
Frostweed is an excellent wildlife perennial plant, native from all the way up in Pennsylvania to here in sunny–usually mild–Texas. Its striking summer-to-autumn white blooms, which feed many, are quite enough for me to adore Frostweed, but it’s the transitory ice show, as seen during the first hard freeze of winter, that gives this summer and autumn blooming, pollinator-loving perennial its name.
In the first winter hard freeze, this week, my Frostweed strutted its icy, frosty stuff for almost three full days, due to the temperatures dropping late Sunday and not reaching above freezing until mid-day Wednesday. The first thing I thought about on Monday morning, January 1, 2018, (okay, second–the first was about coffee…), was Oooh, I need to check out the frostweed, I’ll bet they’ve all burst open!
Indeed, burst open they had–and how!
The ice formations are delicate and transient–melting at touch or temperatures over freezing. Ice forms as the plant draws moisture up from the ground. The supercooled moisture breaks open the epidermis, freezing from the base of the plant and upwards along the stalk.
The resulting ice sculptures can furl (unfurl?), scroll-like, along the stalk, which is how my Frostweed usually behaves.
Sometimes, the ice creates wavy, ice-taffy inspired forms.
Curly. Groovy. Icy. Beauty.
This winter’s show was special because in Austin, and certainly in more northern parts of the state, temperatures stayed below freezing for longer than the typical fleeting hard freeze, thus allowing the ice sculptures to expand, and remain frozen for admirers to appreciate for longer than just one morning.
Other perennials demonstrate similar freeze-n-bust action, but none do it with the verve and style of Frostweed.
As the sun warmed Wednesday afternoon, so melted away the exquisite, frosty art. The frost show ended, probably until next winter, but it was fun to see. Frostweed will be back in spring, after winter’s pruning, for another year of blooms and bust.
Frostweed–a frosty delight.