Frost Flowers

Yesterday I went for a bright, cold walk with Niko, Sofia, and the puppy, Cody. Usually I carry Sofia in my Ergo carrier, but this time I thought I’d save my back and push her in our big rough-terrain stroller. I’m glad I did, because it turns out I can see a lot more when she’s not strapped to my chest.

We walked across our big lawn, past the row of cypresses, down the hill to the little creek that runs across the bottom of our property in the winter. Cody promptly made a dash for the creek; Niko tried to ford the creek, too, at its widest part, but I threatened him with immediate return to the house if he fell into the creek, and he prudently took the bridge instead. (Later he found a stone ford that I’d been hoping he wouldn’t notice, and I relented and let him cross there. What’s the point of a creek if you can’t at least cross it?)

I was about to follow him when I noticed something odd. A patch of ground near the creek was covered with curving, shining ice crystals pushing up out of the ground. I’d never seen anything like it. I snapped a couple of photos and kept walking — and kept finding more. At first I wondered if the patches of ice were the tops of a mole’s sleeping chamber, but there were just too many of them. It turns out they’re something called crystallofolia, which translates as frost leaves — commonly called frost flowers. When certain plants freeze in previously unfrozen ground, the water inside the stems comes fountaining out in the form of ice crystals. They can get a lot more complex than the ones I saw, but mine were still pretty amazing.

Just for good measure, here are a few pictures of our walk: