Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Verbesina virginica


Frostweed, White crownbeard, Iceplant, Iceweed, Virginia crownbeard, Indian tobacco, Richweed, Squawweed


Asteraceae (Aster Family)



Verbesina virginica (Frostweed)
Marcus, Joseph A.


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.

For much more information on these phenomena see Dr. James Carters website at: http://my.ilstu.edu/~jrcarter/ice/ and Dr. Bob Harms website at: http://w3.biosci.utexas.edu/prc/VEVI3/crystallofolia.html.


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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Biennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf: Dark green
Flower: Flower heads 3 to 6 inches across.
Fruit:
Size Class: 3-6 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov

Distribution

USA: AL , AR , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , MD , MS , MO , NC , OH , OK , PA , SC , TN , TX , VA , WV , DC
Native Distribution: Pennsylvania west to central Texas, south to Florida
Native Habitat: Open, dryish woodlands and streambanks

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low , Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
Soil Description: Well-drained, acid or calcareous loams

Benefit

Use Ornamental: Good as understory in landscape restorations within its range. Also useful as a transitional plant between manicured and wild areas.
Use Wildlife: Attracts butterflies
Use Other: Leaves dried and used as tobacco by some indigenous peoples.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Butterflies
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: High

Last Update: 2013-10-25