What looks like a lost Santa beard or fallen cotton candy in the forest in the images below is actually an amazing natural phenomenon called Frost Beard or Hair Ice. It occurs because of a bacteria that causes growth of these fluffy ice hairs.
The images below were taken by Environmental Scientist Sarah Boon for her blog Watershed Moments. She says in the blog post that she found them on alder shrubs, which contain a lot of moisture. They appeared just after the temperature dropped below freezing.
A bacteria called pseudomonas syringae lives in these shrubs and other plants and serves as a starting place for the ice crystal. It also raises the freezing temperature for the water in the plant, so the water in the plant freezes before the water around it. The water in the plant’s vessels expands and seeps through cracks into the cooler outside air, where it freezes.
Look, it’s incredible:
You can read more about frost beards and other plant-related ice action at this post from the Cocktail Party Physics blog >
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