The bluebonnet of winter: Have you spotted this frosty native plant during Texas’ recent freeze?


The bluebonnet of winter: Have you spotted this frosty native plant during Texas’ recent freeze?

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Photo by Flickr user Trekr via Creative Commons

We’re still a ways away from wildflower season. But a frozen Texas is not without winter beauty. 

Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center shared pictures of an interesting looking plant Wednesday. According to the garden, frostweed has been spotted more frequently on recent chilly mornings. 

As some commenters noted, the frostweed, which is also referred to as the “ice plant,” resembles a number of things it isn’t: cotton candy, cotton balls, taffy, scrolls of paper and the dense web of an overachieving spider. 

So how does it work? The white fluff of the frostweed is, in fact, frost and not some sort of bizarre flower. According to the Wildflower Center:

When the first good freeze sets in, the plant draws underground moisture up through its roots and extrudes that water sideways through the lower portions of the stalk as ribbons of ice. Those striated ribbons may curl tightly inward, suggesting scrolls of paper or parchment, or they may undulate irregularly as new ice crystals form and push the older parts of each ribbon further away from the stalk.

The ice of the frostweed is very delicate (read: not suitable for flower arranging) and often doesn’t last beyond the early morning hours. 

During warmer months frostweed flowers serve as an excellent source of nectar for pollinators, especially monarch butterflies, the Wildflower Center reports. In fact, locals are often encouraged to plant frostweed to help the butterflies as they travel south. 

As the American-Statesman has reported, tonight could be the final night of freezing temperatures in the area for awhile. If you’re hoping to spot frostweed before things warm up, Thursday morning might be your best bet!

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