Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Frostweed flowers are nature's winter magic

Verbesina virginica has begun its flowering magic and I never tire of seeing it blooming on a cold morning.
Verbesina virginica/white crownbeard/wingstem is a valuable food sources for late pollinator visitors, so I've let it seed with some abandon in the wilder parts of the garden.
You can see capillary action in the above stem
Although, more common on the first frosty mornings of fall, here in my Middle Tennessee Zone 7 garden we have all the right ingredients for frostweed flowers to make their special appearance even in winter.

All that is needed is a warm winter day followed by a cold winter night. During the warm day, the Verbesina's roots draw water up into the stem and later that night freezing temperatures force the sap from the stems where they freeze into sculptural ice candy flower curls. The scientific term is capillary action, but

I think it's magic.

Verbesina's quirky magical winter behavior is just one of the many reasons it's a queen among the rough and tumble flowering natives in my garden. Bumble Bees love it. Green Metallic bees love it. Giant Carpenter Bees love it. Butterflies love it. In fact, it's an essential late summer/early fall nectar food for all visiting pollinators and it's an especially important food for  the Monarch Butterfly. It's has been selected for monitoring by Monarch Watch, an organization devoted to education, conservation and research about/for the Monarch Butterfly. It will always have a place in my garden.

I love its candy curls of ice, but, in the back of my mind are images of summer blooms and visiting pollinators.


I am posting this magical flower for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! Stop by May Dreams Gardens to see what other gardeners are sharing for Bloom Day.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. Alright, you've convinced me I want it... now where I can find it? (It doesn't seem available in commerce from any of my usual suppliers...)

    1. I have a lot and there might be seeds left on the plants...will check.

  2. Great frost flower photos! We don't usually get such spectacular displays in the PNW, but I can usually find some at least once a year somewhere in the woods or fields around home.

  3. Beautiful!
    If the Garden Fairies were still outside (I know they join the House Fairies inside during the coldest weather), I would suspect they have something to do with it!
    Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

  4. Wow!! That is so fun! Great photos of it. Now I want to find out if I can grow this plant.

  5. What an amazing flower! Thanks for sharing it for bloom day!

  6. Your photos of these flowers are wonderful Gail! Happy Bloom Day!

  7. I want some magic in my garden! Beautiful too.

  8. Oh that is truly great, i can't imagine how that white magic looks in person. Capillary action through the vascular bundles, but why do the water come out of the stem, i wonder. But it certainly is beautiful and yes, magical.

  9. Perfect for the season. The way you've captured the light behind it in your photos is truly magical. Happy GBBD!

  10. I live to far north to enjoy this beauty in person. Luckily, I am able to admire it vicariously through your post!

  11. Wow! This is something completely new to me. I am impressed with your photos. The plant is quite fascinating to see!

  12. Your frost flowers are magic indeed! Beautiful.

  13. So magical and lovely! I wish I could see them IRL. You captured them well and the images are stuck in my mind giving me so much delight! Happy Holidays to you are yours!

  14. With a name like frostweed, you'd think it would grow in cold climates, but Dave's Garden says it's only hardy to zone 6. I'll just have to enjoy it vicariously through you.

  15. You're right, it truly is magical! I look forward to this post every year.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson