Some interesting ice formations at the surface on the Piedmont of central Virginia, USA


Dr. James R. Carter, Professor Emeritus

Geography-Geology Department

Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790




I was visiting family in central Virginia over Thanksgiving 2005.  Friday night the temperature fell to 23 F in Richmond so I went out Saturday morning to explore the effects of the cold.  I visited the Amelia Wildlife Area west of Richmond, just south of the James River.  I wandered around the wooded areas, small corn fields and roads.  As I wandered down this open area, I noticed needles of ice pushing up the soil. 

Below are needles of ice pushing up the soil.  Some of these needles are at least an inch in length (2.5 cm).  It is interesting that the ice does not rise above the soil but in most cases supports a thin crust of soil.

The low angle of the sunlight and the patches of shade from the woods to the east make it difficult to get uniform lighting of these unique surfaces.  In the photo below you can see cavities under the thin layer of soil.  The cavities are supported by the many columns of ice.  At the top of the photo the soil is broken up and clumps of needles of ice are evident.

As I was photographing the ice needles I discovered a small ice ribbon at the base of a plant, laying parallel to the surface.  This is similar to the ice ribbons I found elsewhere but it is smaller than any I had seen before. 

Here is another perspective of the same ice ribbon.  In this case a ruler in inches is employed to give a scale to the ice formation. 

I had not anticipated seeing an ice ribbon, or ice flower, this small.  With some effort I found another in the same area.  This ribbon was even smaller.  The pen and the acorns give scale to this unique ice formation. 

Then, lo, I found a third ice ribbon.  This too is smaller than anything I had seen before.  Look closely at the base of this plant and you can see that the stem of the plant is shredded into a few fibers.  This tells me that the stem exploded or shattered with the growth of the ice formation. 

The ice ribbons I had found before seemed to be related to Verbesina virginica.  However, it is my interpretation that these plants are not this species.  I am now trying to find out what plant is shown here.


Please send any thoughts and comments to me--Dr. Jim Carter at  [email protected]  

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