KODAK, Tenn. (WKRN) — Even though the leaves have fallen and once lush plants have started to shrivel as the cold winter weather settles in, there are still many sights to behold from Mother Nature.

Park Ranger Stephanie Mueller recently captured the beauty of unique flowers during a hike at Seven Islands State Birding Park in Kodak, Tennessee.

“The frost flowers are able to be seen throughout the park on very cold mornings, especially from the hiking trails,” she said.

Mueller said she has seen the icy flowers every year for the last several years at the park, but not prior to that.

“They are just a special cold weather surprise that I get to teach curious visitors about when they see them,” she said.

The frost formations appear when temperatures drop below zero and create very thin layers of ice along the stems of some species of plants known as Wingstems (Verbesina virginica), also known as Frostweed.

“The moisture inside the stem of the plant seeps up from the ground and slowly emerges through small slits in the stem and freezes upon contact with the cold air,” she explained. “The shape of the icy frost flowers are unpredictable because the sizes of slits in the stems vary among the plants and moisture levels in the soil and plants. In a way, they are like snowflakes in that no two are exactly alike.”

The flowers melt away when the temperatures start to rise.

National Weather Services Glen Conner and former state climatologist for Kentucky described certain conditions are required for this phenomenon.

“Their formation requires freezing air temperature, soil that is moist or wet but not frozen, and a plant’s stem that has not been previously frozen. (Practically speaking, a once per year event, although not all individuals produce frost flowers on the first day of good conditions),” stated Conner.

Mueller said she wasn’t surprised to learn frost flowers are really cool.

“I was not aware that they were a unique phenomenon, but it doesn’t surprise me much because our park is predominantly native warm season grasslands, which are also fairly uncommon these days,” she said.

While the frost flowers are likely not to be seen again this year, Mueller said there’s still much more to enjoy in the park.

“Visitors to Seven Islands State Birding Park are able to enjoy hiking on 10 miles of trails through a variety of grassland, forest, and wetland habitats, and observing some of the more than 215 species of birds documented at the park.”

She continued, “Some of the bird species that are a highlight for bird enthusiasts this time of year include Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Golden-Crowned Kinglets, White-Crowned Sparrows, White-Throated Sparrows, Red-Headed Woodpeckers, Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, and Northern Harrier Hawk.”

The park also offers up several programs like moonlit hikes, as well as acorn and maple syrup demonstrations.

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“There are plenty of opportunities for people to enjoy nature and the outdoors throughout the winter months, but it is important to plan ahead.”

Tennessee’s State Parks offer up a variety of educational and recreational programs year round. You can learn more about parks in your area at this link.