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Marcus, Joseph A.
Verbesina virginica L.
Frostweed, White crownbeard, Iceplant, Iceweed, Virginia crownbeard, Indian tobacco, Richweed, Squawweed
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.
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.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Biennial Habit: Herb Leaf Retention: Deciduous Leaf:
Dark green Flower: Flower
heads 3 to 6 inches across.
Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov
, WV Native Distribution:
Pennsylvania west to central Texas, south to Florida Native Habitat:
Open, dryish woodlands and streambanks
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low , Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil Description: Well-drained, acid or calcareous loams
BenefitUse 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
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: High
PropagationPropagation Material: Root Division , Seeds
Description: Root division while dormant in winter. Also by seed.
Seed Collection: Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds.
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Mr. Smarty Plants says
Question about Salvia coccinea photos in the Native Plant Database
June 29, 2009
A search for Salvia coccinea in the database resulted in some of the pictures showing frostweed crystals ('am assuming that is an error), as well as some white and bicolor pastel pink & white blooms....
view the full question and answer
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
From the National Suppliers Directory
According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
Far South Wholesale Nursery
- Austin, TX
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Fredericksburg Nature Center
- Fredericksburg, TXLady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
- Austin, TXPineywoods Native Plant Center
- Nacogdoches, TXTexas Discovery Gardens
- Dallas, TXBrackenridge Field Laboratory
- Austin, TXPatsy Glenn Refuge
- Wimberley, TXNueces River Authority
- Uvalde, TXTexas Master Naturalists - Lost Pines Chapter
- Bastrop, TXNPSOT - Austin Chapter
- Austin, TXJacob's Well Natural Area
- Wimberley, TX
Herbarium Specimen(s)NPSOT 0133
Collected Sept. 17, 1991 in Bexar County by Lottie MillsapsNPSOT 0039B
Collected Oct. 7, 1990 in Bexar County by Judith C. BerryNPSOT 0930
Collected Oct 2, 1994 in Comal County by Mary Beth WhiteNPSOT 0998
Collected Oct 12, 1994 in Bexar County by Harry CliffeNPSOT 0039A
Collected Oct. 7, 1990 in Bexar County by Judith C. Berry
Wildflower Center Seed BankLBJWC-634
Collected 2007-12-10 in Travis County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower CenterLBJWC-186
Collected 2007-11-19 in Travis County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Record Last Modified: 2013-10-25
Research By: TWC Staff, GAP