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frost weed

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Verbesina virginica

Verbesina virginica L.

Frostweed, White Crownbeard, Iceplant, Iceweed, Virginia Crownbeard, Indian Tobacco, Richweed, Squawweed

Asteraceae (Aster Family)

Synonym(s):

USDA Symbol: vevi3

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

This easy-to-grow Verbesina lends stately, dark green leaves and white, autumn flowers to the dappled shade found at the edges of woodlands, where it can form sizable colonies with its spreading rhizomes. Each stem has soft, fleshy green flanges running longitudinally down its length. When winter weather brings ice, the stems exude water that freezes into fascinating shapes, hence its common name Frostweed. This plant is best suited for naturalizing rather than formal landscapes.

The ice crystals formed on the stems of this and other plant species have been given many names – among them: ice ribbons, ice flowers, ice fringes, ice fingers, ice filaments, ice leaves, frost flowers, frost ribbons, frost freaks, frost beards, frost castles (Forrest M. Mims III http://www.forrestmims.org/gallery.html), crystallofolia (coined by Bob Harms at The University of Texas), rabbit ice and rabbit butter.

The same phenomenon is regularly noted on the stems of Helianthemum canadense (common names: Frostweed, Rock frost, Frostplant, Frostwort, Longbranch Frostweed), H. bicknellii (common names: Frostweed, Hoary frostweed), Cunila origanoides, Pluchea odorata, P. foetida, P. camphorata. Additionally, it has been occasionally reported on the lower stems of various other species, including some in Lamiaceae, Verbenaceae, Apocynaceae, and others.

Similar phenomena include the formation of ice crystals in loose soils, known variously as ice needles, frost column, kammeis (German), or pipkrake (Swediah) and the formation of ice crystals on dead (especially rotten) tree branches, known in German as haareis and in English as hair ice, silk frost or cotton candy frost.

Plant Database Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.