Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Frosty Hunt for Frostweed

Brrrrrr! It was COLD today. Frost covered everything. And that was a very good thing, because my friends Sue and Jackie and I had arranged to go in search of Frostweed at Mud Pond in Moreau Lake State Park. On these first freezing days of autumn, this unprepossessing little plant does a most amazing thing: it exudes through its splitting stems a vapor that immediately freezes into curls and clouds of evanescent gauzy ice. Very, very pretty. But you have to get up early to see it. As soon as the sun touches it, it's gone. But we got there in time, and here are a couple of photos to prove it. (For more information about Frostweed, see Sue's blog Water-lily, where she also includes Thoreau's journal entry about this plant, including his sketches of it.)

See how the frozen vapor forms curls around the stem.

Here you can see the frothy texture, like angel hair or cotton candy, of some of the frozen vapor.

Another interesting ice form was one that crunched underfoot: needles of ice that pushed up through the sandy soil of the path.

Everywhere we looked was something enchanting, with every stem and leaf and blade aglitter.

Some of the frost had formed in tiny spikes and needles that gave the leaves a prickly appearance.

Our Frostweed goal accomplished, we continued our walk around Mud Pond, stopping every few feet, it seemed, to examine some other nature find.

I don't know the official name of this little fungus, so I'll call it Dixie Cup.

It took me a while to figure out these berries were the fruit of Canada Mayflower.

Tiny Pixie-cup lichens share a steep bank with the club moss called Running Pine.

We also just sat and gazed out at the beauty of the pond on this clear frosty morning, listening to a cluster of Hooded Mergansers making their distinctive growls as they swam about in a hidden bay. (Sue's blog presents a recording of this remarkable sound.)

We soon heard the honking of geese far up in the sky, and watched as the flock soared over the pond, then continued on to land on some other water beyond our sight.

We kept hearing another gobbling and clacking sound that made us think that turkeys must be somewhere near, but we never saw them. Sue went off into the woods to investigate the source, and soon called to us to come along. We found her with her ear pressed to the trunk of a tall Pitch Pine. Somewhere up in the crown of the tree, branches were rubbing together, creating sounds that were amazingly animal-like. I almost expected to see a hornbill perched up in the canopy. Here, Jackie listens while Sue tries to photograph the source of the sound.

Nearly as frozen as that Frostweed vapor, we made our way to the park headquarters to warm up a bit, then walked around one bay of Moreau Lake before heading off to the Peppermill in South Glens Falls for lunch. I can't imagine a happier, more satisfying way to spend a day: enjoying this amazing park in the company of fine friends, sharing knowledge and enthusiasm and poems and stories and laughs and a meal, and above all, a sense of wonder about our ever-changing, always astounding, natural world.


Jackie C said...

So Beautiful! Your description of the day was perfect, and the photos were, as always, very lovely.That frozen vapor from the frost weed does look like cotton candy! It was also very hard to capture! Excellent work!

suep said...

It was great fun to walk with both of you, and to see how we got three different angles of the same day (and sometimes of the same plant!) ... one thing we seem to all have in common, being able to get a thrill out of things like hearing trees sing and seeing all the tiny jewels of the forest at our feet.

Woodswoman Extraordinaire said...

I've never heard of frostweed before, but clearly I'm going to have to go on a quest for it. Very cool, and great photos!