When campers are away, it’s a whole different place around here! It’s cold and the leaves are gone from our trees, and the grass turns
brown and crunchy. One of the best things happens after the first big blue norther. That’s always the day the frostweed “blooms”.
Frostweed is also called iceweed or ice plant, but the scientific name
is Verbesina virginica. The “blooms” I’m talking about aren’t really flowers at all. It’s a once a year thing. The frostweed is a common plant at crossings and slopes along the river, and whenever we get our first really hard freeze, the stems split, extruding the freezing plant’s juices into these cool, random ribbons of frozen sap, very lightweight, and looking to the untrained eye like so much Styrofoam litter!
In fact, one friend from Houston who used to spend a lot of time here and was a disciplined power walker, gave me a call one frosty winter day many years ago to ask (outraged) why suddenly so many people had begun to litter! In the off season, yet!
We like to bundle up and walk among the plants before the sun warms up the earth again and they’re gone for good–until next year.
The plants aren’t particularly valuable for deer or livestock as food. The flowers aren’t super attractive, but the butterflies love them. If it weren’t for the phenomenon of the first freeze, most people probably wouldn’t notice them at all.
So after the first big cold front, the rest is just leafless trees, earth the color of dirty old tennis shoes, and counting the days until summer is here again!