by Wayne Pauly from Dane County Parks ACTION Adult Conservation Team Newsletter (All folklore stories)
Frost Aster & Frostweed
Aster simplex [A. lanceolatus] & Helianthemum canadense
Frost aster makes sense because the white flowers thrive during the sharp frosts of early October, but why frostweed for a yellow flower that appears during the balmy days of June. Well, people named frostweed for what they saw five months later on crisp mornings of early November, and I had to look for years before seeing the magical frost on a sand prairie of the Wisconsin River. Standing there, we saw scattered patches of white on the ground resembling windblown tufts of milkweed fluff, but it was actually hoarfrost on the stems of frostweed. Moisture driven up from the roots had burst the stems and formed delicate fairyland hills and valleys of frost around the reddish stems. It disappeared as the sun warmed the earth. I have not taken the time to find it again, but the memory remains crystal clear.
The new prairie wildflower areas planted in the parks let others form special memories. But the young prairies need your help. Adopt a young prairie and help it through the formative years. Read the adjoining article about becoming a prairie foster parent.