We never know if we'll get that day: the perfect Frostweed morning. The parameters are exacting. Saturday morning, the requirements were perfect: it was well below freezing (about 18 degrees F.), a clear sky had provided for optimal radiational cooling overnight, and not a breath of wind was moving to disturb the crystals forming in the sap escaping from the slender Frostweed stems that had split as they froze. My friend Sue Pierce and I met at the powerline above Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park, a site where we've always found Frostweed (Crocanthemum canadense) without fail. The clearcut under the powerlines was all aglitter with sparkling frost.
Monday, November 2, 2020
Today Was the Day! Frostweed Was the Find!
Every seedling oak leaf was edged with icy needles.
The very ground was transformed by the cold, with needle ice pushing up from the sand in the path.
All this icy evidence assured us that we would surely find those frothy curls of ice surrounding the Frostweed stems. And so we did.
It took some searching to find the Frostweed, since grass and shrubbery had grown up around where we used to find abundant plants of it. As it happened, we found much more of it in a place we rarely looked before, where the ground was sandier and the surrounding vegetation scarcer. The ice curls were not as large this year as we'd found in years past, but it's possible the plants had grown more desiccated than in other years, because first frost came so late. I can't recall any recent year when a hard frost hadn't occurred before October 31. The size of the ice curls would depend, I assume, on the amount of fluid remaining in the flower stalks. But at least we did find some, which made getting up and out early on this cold morning well worth the effort and shivers.
Soon, though, the sun cleared the hills and woods to the east, and the frosty curls quickly began to melt. They are very diaphanous, more like frozen vapor than frozen fluid. And also quite beautiful.
I took myself home along the Hudson River, where the riverside trees bore muted but still lovely leaves the color of ochre and cinnamon. Mist swirled on the mirror-like surface of the water, since the river water remained warmer than the air on this freezing-cold morning.
The mist was rising, but clouds of it still shrouded the tops of the mountains in the distance, even as the sun was breaking through and gilding them with its light.