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Verbesina virginica (Frostweed)
Allison, Myra B.

Verbesina virginica

Verbesina virginica L.

Frostweed, White Crownbeard, Iceplant, Iceweed, Virginia Crownbeard, Indian Tobacco, Richweed, Squawweed

Asteraceae (Aster Family)


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, 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 Carter's website at: and Dr. Bob Harms' website at:


From the Image Gallery

101 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial , Biennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Size Notes: Up to about 8 feet tall, often shorter.
Leaf: Dark green
Flower: Flower heads 3 to 6 inches across.
Fruit: Fruit is a cypsela (pl. cypselae). Though technically incorrect, the fruit is often referred to as an achene.

Bloom Information

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


USA: AL , AR , DC , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MD , MO , MS , NC , OH , OK , PA , SC , TN , TX , VA , WV
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: Dry , Moist
Soil Description: Well-drained, acid or calcareous loams


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

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
Special Value to Honey Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Propagation 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.

Find Seed or Plants

Order seed of this species from Native American Seed and help support the Wildflower Center.

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 Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Naval Air Station Kingsville - Kingsville, TX
Fredericksburg Nature Center - Fredericksburg, TX
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Patsy Glenn Refuge, c/o Wimberley Birding Society - Wimberley, TX
Nueces River Authority - Uvalde, TX
Texas Master Naturalists - Lost Pines Chapter - Bastrop, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
Jacob's Well Natural Area - Wimberley, TX
NPSOT - Williamson County Chapter - Georgetown, TX

Herbarium Specimen(s)

NPSOT 0039B Collected Oct. 7, 1990 in Bexar County by Judith C. Berry
NPSOT 0133 Collected Sept. 17, 1991 in Bexar County by Lottie Millsaps
NPSOT 0998 Collected Oct 12, 1994 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe
NPSOT 0930 Collected Oct 2, 1994 in Comal County by Mary Beth White
NPSOT 0039A Collected Oct. 7, 1990 in Bexar County by Judith C. Berry

5 specimen(s) available in the Digital Herbarium

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-634 Collected 2007-12-10 in Travis County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
LBJWC-186 Collected 2007-11-19 in Travis County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

2 collection(s) available in the Wildflower Center Seed Bank


Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 328 - Wildflowers of Texas (2003) Ajilvsgi, Geyata.
Bibref 286 - Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country (1989) Enquist, M.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1994 VOL. 11, NO.5 - Sowing Seeds in Fall for a Spectacular Spring Season, Education Director's Repor...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Verbesina virginica in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Verbesina virginica in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Verbesina virginica


Record Modified: 2022-10-07
Research By: TWC Staff, GAP

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