Something happened last weekend that reminds us of the truth in our belief that “the forest has something new to teach us every time we walk through it” – provided we keep paying attention and asking questions and seeking answers to them. In this case we saw something remarkable and rare that we had never seen before – in spite of spending lifetimes walking these and similar woods.
As described in the previous post, on this cold, still, early winter’s morning we began to notice white, feathery formations coming like fluffy hair or cotton candy out of bare sticks of a certain diameter. What was this?!
On coming home, our minister of science, went to work with her circle of enthusiastic and far flung science nuts and came up with the following conclusions.
From Charlie Raymond, retired UW scientist, came this information:
“Pretty amazing picture. My guess is that the subject is similar to needle ice that can form in initial phases of ground freezing. Basically on a cold night when freezing is trying to penetrate a porous/permeable solid, the freezing interface can beheld near the surface because it can not easily get through the small pores (holes). Then water is sucked out of the solid toward the surface to freeze on in the small pores, thus the needle-like structure. I actually have seen this same phenomenon on wet sticks several times here in the NW. The cotton-like morphology is pretty startling. Of course, needle ice is more common. I am forwarding to Bernard for a second and more dependable opinion.”
Justin Sharp, a wind power colleague of Pam’s, found this link to “frost flowers” on wikipedia – explaining the phenomenon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frost_flower.
And finally a member of her book group sent along this youTube link with time lapse footage of it growing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlXfaOFgkd4
It turns out that these super delicate formations can be forceful enough to peel the bark off of the branches.
Which is more interesting, the process of frost flowers growing above the spawning coho, or the process of folks sharing information so that we begin to uncover one more mystery in the woods? What’s next?