Winter has arrived in The Parkalnds and it is cold, very cold. Visitors that are braving arctic winter temperatures to hike, bike, or fish are seen bundled in parkas, scarves, gloves, and boots. Playgrounds are quiet and sparse. Familiar Parkalnds residents such as box turtles, skunks, and squirrels are rarely seen as they hunker down in dens and leaves waiting for spring to arrive. Monarchs and Indigo Buntings have (wisely) fled to warmer climates.
However, winter in The Parklands is not a desolate time. In fact, many of nature’s most magnificent creations can be seen during the winter months. Woodpeckers and Eagles are more easily visible on bare trees, slender icicles form along Floyds Fork, and even the illusive frost flower is seen on the forest floor.
Frost flowers, also known as frost faces or ice blossoms, are formed during a confluence of weather factors. The temperature and timing needs to be just right. These fragile flower-like creations form when the air temperature is below freezing but the ground has not yet frozen. Sap contained within the stem of a plant begins to freeze and expand from the cold air causing tiny cracks to form. But, since the water below the ground stored in the roots of that plant has not yet frozen, the plant still draws water up through its’ root system. As this water is drawn upwards, it seeps slowly out of the newly formed cracks in the stem and freezes once it hits the cold air. As more water is drawn upwards more ice is pushed outward from the cracks forming beautiful, delicate petals. But, act quick and have your camera at the ready because ice blossoms do not last long. As the sun gets higher in the sky, the air warms and these intricate works of art melt just as quickly as they were formed.
Frost Flowers. Photo by park visitor, Mike Bacayu.
If you are walking along Floyds Fork during these bitter cold days, you may also have noticed unique ice formations on the stream. One of the most uncommon phenomena, ice circles, form along eddy currents in slow moving water such as Floyds Fork. As some of this slow moving water freezes, the force from the still running and unfrozen water breaks off pieces of ice and spins them with a force called rotational shear. As the newly liberated ice chunk spins, the edges begin to smooth out forming beautiful discs or circles.
Ice Circles. Photo by park visitor, Michael Owen.
We invite you to come explore The Parklands this winter. You never know what majesty Mother Nature has in store!
About the Author
As Director of Education, Curtis Carman oversees The Parklands Outdoor Classroom, promoting STEAM-based education through engaging, hands-on learning both outdoors and inside the classroom. Each year, his team of Education Specialists, Interpretive Rangers and Camp Counselors guide nearly 20,000 participants of all ages through school field trips, camps, Parklands Explorer, Junior Explorer and Wednesday Wonders. Prior to his promotion to Education Director in May of 2018, Curtis first joined The Parklands team as an Interpretive Ranger and led the department as Education Coordinator for three years. A native of Louisville and a graduate of Ballard High School, Curtis returned to his hometown after having worked as an environmental educator in Maine and Colorado at Acadia and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Curtis also served as Membership Manager at the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Curtis enjoys hiking, biking, camping and kayaking.