Cold is supposed to be the enemy of many types of flowers. But under rare circumstances the cold and the flower can combine to create a pretty cool phenomenon called frost flowers.
The marvel occurs in the winter when the ground is not frozen but the air is. The cold air causes water in the stem of a flower to draw upward from the ground. The stem expands and splits vertically. As the water leaks out of the crack it freezes and forms a cotton candy-like wisp. The length of the split determines if the frost flower formation is narrow or wide. Like snowflakes, no two frost flowers are alike and since they are very fragile, they evaporate very quickly.
According to the National Weather Service, frost flowers occur on tall weeds in locations that are seldom mowed.
Plants on which the frost flowers form include crownbeard, commonly called frostweed, and yellow ironwood. They have also been seen on fallen branches of conifers.
Frost flowers are visible in the early morning or in shaded areas.