Wednesday, November 8, 2017

First Frost!

The first frosty morning of autumn, 2017!  I don't know if this is the latest first frost on record, but it's certainly one of the the latest that I can remember. And I do pay attention, since every year, on the first morning the thermometer drops below freezing, I like to hurry over to Mud Pond in Moreau Lake State Park, hoping to see if the plant called Frostweed (Crocanthemum canadense) has extruded its frosty curls of frozen sap.

This year, though, I slept rather late, and by the time I reached Mud Pond, the sun was already warming the shore.  Would that sun already have melted the Frostweed curls?   Would I miss seeing  the lovely way that frost crystals ornament the low vegetation that grows in the sandy powerline clearcut that lies at the top of the pond?

My first steps onto that powerline clearcut assured me that there was still some frosty beauty to be observed this morning.   Some sparkling crystals still outlined the Dewberry leaves and clung to the red-capped Cladonia lichens.

Some silvery-mauve mushrooms were spangled with frost, as were the spiky leaves of Haircap Moss.

And there, where the nearby woods had shaded the path, where the sun's early beams had not yet warmed the leaf litter, a number of Frostweed plants had performed their overnight magic!  Curls of delicate ice, diaphanous as frozen vapor, surrounded each stem, close to where the stems emerged from the ground.

Wherever the sun had begun to touch these frothy emanations, I could see they were melting fast. I'm so glad I arrived in time to see them today.

These brilliant red American Bittersweet berries were another beauty I felt lucky to find today.  Unfortunately, this native vine is rapidly being supplanted by the introduced tree-strangling Oriental Bittersweet, but a few of these vines still manage to hold their own at this site around Mud Pond.  Their berries are bigger than those of the alien species, but the vines tend to produce many fewer of them.

I'm always amazed at how the leaves of seedling oaks contain all the foliage colors of autumn in a single leaf. The frost that had earlier coated these leaves had melted by now, dampening the leaves and intensifying the colors.


I could hear the flocks of Canada Geese hooting and muttering out on the pond.  One of their downy feathers had caught on the wind and wafted up the bank to catch on a Hazelnut twig. It fascinated me to see the different textures of this single tuft:  the lofty, fluffiness of the warmth-providing down and the stiff spikiness of the water-shedding outer layer.  A perfect design for a goose's cold-water habitat!


Uta said...

You describe things so beautifully, thank you for the nature that you show us.

Woody Meristem said...

The first frost did indeed come late this year -- an unfortunate portent of the years to come.

The Furry Gnome said...

Such a fascinating plant. We did hVe one light frost in late Sept., about as usual, but nothing since.