Long-branched Frost-weed; Frost-flower; Frost-wort;
FlowersSolitary, or rarely 2; about 1 in. across, 5-parted, with showy yellow petals; the 5 unequal sepals hairy. Also abundant small flowers lacking petals, produced from the axils later. Stem: Erect, 3 in. to 2 ft. high; at first simple, later with elongated branches. ‘Leaves: Alternate, oblong, almost seated on stem.
Preferred HabitatDry fields, sandy or rocky soil. Flowering SeasonPetal-bearing flowers, MayJuly. DistributionNew England to the Carolinas, westward to Wisconsin and Kentucky.
When the stubble in the dry fields is white some cold November morning, comparatively few notice the ice crystals, like specks of glistening quartz, at the base of the stems of this plant. The similar Hoary Frost-weed (H. majus), whose showy flowers appear in clusters at the hoary stem’s summit in June and July, also bears them. Often this ice formation assumes exquisite feathery, whimsical forms, bursting the bark asunder where an astonishing quantity of sap gushes forth and freezes. Indeed, so much sap sometimes goes to the making of this crystal flower, that it would seem as if an extra reservoir in the soil must pump some up to supply it with its large fantastic corolla.