Light, delicate and almost ethereal, you might see a field of frost flowers and assume them to be lilies floating on the water—but take a closer look! These “flowers” are actually fragile clusters of ice, formed on the water during freezing weather.
To learn more about this one-of-a-kind marvel, take a look at our blog below!
A frosty fixture of the world’s coldest waters
As you might have guessed, frost flowers are truly special. They have an awe-inspiring quality that looks like something pulled straight from a fairytale, and their hard-to-find nature (they only occur under select, specific conditions in some of the world’s coldest waters) makes them even more rare.
So what does a frost flower really look like? Picture a small cluster of crystallized ice about as big as the palm of your hands, with small outward-pointing bits of ice that might seem like tiny spears or the parts of a spiky desert plant. Of course, if you ever get the chance to observe a frost flower up close, you’d see that these “spears” look a lot more like tiny, fragile leaves!
The surprising science behind frost flowers
How do frost flowers occur, and what sets them apart from everyday icicles or other frosty formations? The answer lies in a very specific balance of conditions—for a “flower” to occur, the temperature of the water below a layer of ice needs to be warmer than the air above. When this occurs, the ice has a chance to vaporize and, once it hits the ultra-cold temperatures above, turn into a frozen, flower-like shape.
Of course, there’s more to these flowers than meets the eye—when researchers from the University of Washington studied the melted-down flowers from a trip to Arctic waters, they found millions of bacteria—a surprising amount, considering the hostility of the cold, salty surroundings. Even more interesting? It’s not known what the bacteria were doing there! This anecdote, however, certainly adds to the mystique of the flowers, which have been found in spots from the North Pole to the Great Lakes.
Have you ever spotted frost flowers before? Be sure to let us know and—better yet—share your photos of this mesmerizing phenomenon below.