Normally, frost flowers form during the first hard freeze in late fall. Frost flowers form as water freezes just underground and is forced up through dormant plant tissue. The plant tissue acts as a mold for the ribbons of ice that are then extruded from the ground in the shape of the plant stem.
Several native plants form frost flowers but the species we have here that forms them is White Crownbeard (Verbesina virginica). I suppose the long, sustained cold snap we’ve had this last week allowed them to grow and keep growing until they were covered with snow yesterday. Here are several of the frost flowers I photographed the day before the snow.
This Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) has been blooming for more than a week. I thought it was a little early for it. Sure enough, there are probably a dozen more that we found today that are in varying stages of blooming. It’s going to be be our best year yet for them in the restored prairie!
After nearly three years of planning and preparation, I sowed about 1/3 of an acre today with native seeds. Preparation included multiple passes with herbicide, including spot sprayings over more than two years. This year, I spent a great deal of time collecting native seeds from the surrounding counties. Today, right after our snow accumulation, Julian and I sowed them into two new areas (see map). This leaves a small “domestic” area between the workshop and the shed where we’ll have a garden, a fire pit, and continue to keep mowed and semi-manicured.
After digging through notes, field notebooks, field guides, and the furthest recesses of our memories, we’ve compiled a vascular plant species list for Pearl Creek Farm. So far, we have 221 species listed, which is not bad for 10 acres. I’ve marked several with codes indicating their native status and whether or not we “imported” them as part of one of our restorations. As you can see, we have some identification work to do on some of the plants here.
With the help of John Atwood at the Missouri Botanical Garden, I’ve also compiled a list of 16 bryophytes for the farm.
It’s a good year for frost flowers. These “flowers” form during the first really cold nights of the fall. Basically, water is forced up through the stems of certain species of plants and is forced outward, forming intricate patterns. Most of these frost flowers formed on the stems of Verbesina virginica, White Crownbeard.
This is by far the most frost flowers I’ve ever seen in the wild. This is the third time I’ve seen them at Pearl Creek Farm. The other times I saw one or two only. There are more than two dozen out there now!
I hope June finds you knee-deep in native plants! Our prairie has gone from spring beauties and violets all the way through coneflowers, horsemint, and at least two types of milkweed. I can see ashy sunflower, blazing star, and various species of Silphium ready to round out the summer. Tufts of native grass are thicker than ever. The pond has yellow spatterdock, white waterlily, arrowhead (Sagittaria), and lizard’s tail all blooming right now. There will no doubt be more as the season progresses.
There aren’t many of them, but a few Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica) and Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata) started blooming at Pearl Creek Farm, probably just today. We went out for a hike looking this morning and found nothing.