All About Frostweed (Verbesina virginica)
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The large leaves give frostweed a rather tropical look, but it is very hardy. The plant can reach as high as 6 feet, but averages around 4 feet. Trimming it back in June will give you a fuller plant and more blooms.
Frostweed will grow in full sun, partial shade, or full shade and it requires a small amount of water to be happy. Like most wildflowers, it needs very little care. River banks, open woodlands, and shaded woods are its natural habitat, however, and copying these conditions will produce the happiest plants.
The large clusters of white flower blooms appear in August and September and are usually covered with bees and butterflies. The foliage is a larval host for the Summer Azure, Bordered Patch, and Silvery Checkerspot butterflies.
The plant gets its name from its unusual behavior in the winter. When a freeze occurs, the stems will burst and make beautiful ice formations at the base of the plants. You have to go out early to see it because the ice sculpture melts quickly.
As you can see, frostweed is a unique plant! I hope you will consider it for your own gardens.
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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 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.
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