Frost: Seeing the Beauty in Our Winter Wonderland

By Joanna P., Certified Master Gardener

Wintertime Botanicals

Did you know that there are flower and plant creations that can only be seen in the dead of winter?  It’s true.  And they come from the most unlikely source…..frost!

Window Frost and Hoar Frost form structures that resemble plants, leaves and flowers.  They produce incredibly detailed and intricate formations, but how do they do it?

Window Frost Image

Winter Frost on a Window

Window Frost

Window Frost, also know as Fern Frost and Ice Flowers,  forms when a glass pane, usually a single pane, is exposed to very cold air on the outside and moderately humid air on the inside.  Water vapor then condenses on the window to form patterns and it seems the window itself determines exactly what the patterns will be.   Dirt, dust, scratches and other imperfections on windows direct the growth of the ice crystals, therefore creating a unique formation to your particular window.  Formations vary in structure including ferns, leaf and spike creations.

Hoar Frost

Hoar Frost, technically called Radiation Frost, forms white crystal creations on the ground or exposed objects during cold, clear nights.  Hoar Frost accumulates on objects when water vapor is present and objects are below freezing in temperature.  This is why you commonly see Hoar Frost along rivers, lakes or when fog has been present.  Hoar Frost can occur on any object that is cold enough for the water vapor to freeze on such as fence posts, the ground, tree limbs and often resemble grasses and flower-like creations.

Enjoy the amazing winter wonderland frost this winter!

Hoar Frost on a Fence in Wyoming

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