I happened to notice what looked like damp toilet paper wrapped around some of the weeds underneath a big pine tree. I thought "How did that get there?"
On closer inspection...it was actually ice...which was weird, because there hadn't been any snow or rain.
As I looked around I found it in several more places, under other trees and at the edge of the woods.
It turns out that this is frost flowers or ice flowers...a sort of unusual phenomenon. It happens only in late fall or early winter when air temperatures are freezing but the ground is not frozen. And it only occurs on a few types of plants.
Here is what happens...(quoted from Missouri Dept of Conservation website)
How they form
While the plants’ stems are ruptured by the first hard freeze, the root system is still sending up plant sap from the warmer ground. The sap pushes through the broken stem and freezes on contact with the cold air. As more saps moves up, it forces the freezing stream of white ice crystals into ornate, folded ribbons that look like petals, puffs of cotton candy, or snarls of white thread.
Here is a website with more info and some better photos than mine...
I wish I had been out earlier in the day. The ones I saw may have been melted a little since the sun had been out and warmed things up a bit.
Have you ever seen these frost flowers?
Now that I know about them I will try to watch for them each year if the conditions are right.