Why They Call It “Frost”weed

”Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem.

Most things are judged by their jackets.”

– Baltasar Gracian


I have to say that mid-January in North Texas was pretty painful.  Temperatures in the Dallas area dropped into the low teens but with no snow, no school closings (at least for us) and no hanging out in pajamas with popcorn and hot chocolate watching mindless television all day. It was simply bitter, frigid, cold, with absolutely nothing to show for it…that is, except for the Frostweed.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I have mentioned this favorite of pollinator plants in several articles. It’s a wild specimen that everyone should domesticate as an absolute must for attracting loads of bees and butterflies, especially nectaring Monarchs. Early in my pollination obsession, I grew Frostweed in a school garden. I assumed, being the novice that I was during that first autumn, that the name “Frost”weed must have originated from the delicately clustered milky, white flowers towering above me.  That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I didn’t realize, until I happened to come across an article by Monika Maeckle, with Texas Butterfly Ranch, that Frostweed gets its name, not from any normal blooming adornment, but rather from a process that happens within the plant under extreme weather conditions. As Monika writes, “Upon first frost, the stem splits, the sap oozes out and freezes to form fascinating curled ice ribbons and intriguing sculptures. That’s why it’s called Frostweed, or sometimes, Iceweed.” I was absoLUTEly intrigued. From what I had personally witnessed in the school garden, though, it was a bit of a stretch to say that the process would occur at first frost.  I had watched our garden several times, as temperatures dipped below the freezing mark, and nothing happened. Again, kind-of like no snow, school’s still on and you’re wearing a suit and heels instead of your PJs. I just wasn’t sure when I would get to witness this phenomenon in Dallas. Then, mid-January of 2018 hit, and, as crazy as it sounds, sixteen degrees gets you exACTly where you need to be.

I have to give big kudos to my husband J. He had taken our trash cans around from the street to the garage and noticed, what he thought, were plastic bags caught at the base of our Frostweed plants. When he went to grab them, though, he realized something far more amazing had happened. He sashayed through the back door and calmly said, “You’d better check your Frostweed.” He didn’t have to elaborate. I knew exactly what that meant. I was SO excited to FINALLY have stands of this amazing plant dressed in wintry dazzle. I skipped outside, still in my robe, no less, and there they were…lovely ribbons of ice, curled around the stalks. Absolute perfection. I had to tip my hat to Old Man Winter on this one.

I was so bummed, though, because I had to dress to go show houses to a client (real estate in the Dallas market waits for no one and no thing). I told J. it would be up to him to take my camera and photograph what he could before it warmed up to thirty-six that day. This would be the kiss of death. The Cinderella Frostweed would not leave even a glass slipper behind at this ball. So, while I was working that morning, J. grabbed the camera and headed to the pollinator garden for a photo shoot. He laughed later and said, “I felt like I had NO idea what I was doing.” I have to say, though, his shots are lovely. That’s the great thing about having a stellar partner in this life. A stellar partner happily picks up the slack to propel your dreams to fruition.

So, here’s to J., Old Man Winter and the beauty of Frostweed. Enjoy this phenomenon in the photos below and impress your friends at parties with your newfound knowledge. I should enter a disclaimer here, though, that this kind of party talk can go one of two ways. Either you will enhance your persona, as someone brimming with a vast amount of worldly knowledge, or the person across from you will frantically begin patting her head in the signature Elaine move to escape the conversation drag of whether a peanut is a nut or a legume. Here’s hoping you don’t get the head pat. 😉

All the best,

A. J.













– All content images by N. Jon Schulz


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