plate 1. Tulip-like Ice Rose detail.
The Ice Rose Gallery
by Joshua Heston
Finely spun threads of ice, wrapped layer upon layer until the forms resemble cold, glistening imitations of roses, tulips, random features like blown glass or ribbon candy, ice roses defy our everyday notions of the world around us: a natural phenomenon like clouds or snow or sleet, forming itself into something like a flower.
And yet, ice roses (or frost flowers) are so easy to overlook. Short-lived and often small, they are the reward of the deeply observant... or those simply in the right place at the right time.
plate 2. Frost flowers may form whenever the soil is still warm — at least warm enough that water has yet to freeze — and the air directly above that particular bit of earth drops below 32°F. The temperature difference (warm below, cold above) creates a pressure change, pulling water from the earth itself in a fine mist.
plate 3. That mist freezes in fine sheets and delicate tracery. The more porous the material from which the water vapor is pulled, the greater the intricacy. Simple shapes often emerge from the soil itself.
plate 4. However, water pulled from complex, porous materials — particularly the dry, fibrous stalk of the winter-killed yellow ironweed (Verbesina alternifolia) — often pours out in twisting garlands of enormous beauty.
plate 5. Some ice clusters ribbon over and over, creating a classic open-rose or peony shape. Others, (below) flow into abstract shapes and patterns, growing more elaborate as long as conditions remain stable — warm soil, cold air.
plate 6. A delicate hush falls over the Ozark forest. All is quiet, save for the occasional call of a crow. A gray afternoon sky saves the ice roses for another hour. The coming weather front has dropped air temperatures suddenly. There is yet mud between the rocks, but the air is a chilled 29°F. The inversion pulls moist air upward, out of the hollers. Light gusts move up the mountain, smelling of snow. And once more the ice roses bloom.
Ice Rose Gallery: State of the Ozarks
All photo credits: J. Heston. Location: Mincy-Drury Conservation Area, Taney County, Missouri • SOTO © Archive. 12/15/08