Nature hides infinite mysteries and as time passes by, some of them come out to the surface, to our amazement and fascination. A mysterious phenomenon known as hair ice has bewildered scientists who could not offer an explanation to the strange and uncommon conglomerate of ice across wooden surfaces. It seems that the answer is simple: fungi. Fungi are some of the most peculiar and most fascinating creatures on earth, but they have really left us gaze in amazement with this strange post-modern performance: hair ice.
Seemingly, the icy hair sculptures that appear overnight in forests before the sun melts them away have fungal fingerprints. Hair ice forms in very cool, high latitude forests on humid nights when temperatures are below 0 degrees Celsius. No miracle lasts for long, so they disappear very soon after sunrise.
Hair ice is highly similar to white candy floss. A diaphanous consistence, a fragile aspect and a very thick appearance which seems to be shaped by extremely thin hairs which mingle together in a delicate sculpture. The fungus known as Exidiopsis effuse is responsible with offering hair ice its highly uncommon shape.
The mysterious case of the winter phenomenon known as hair ice has been studied since 1918, when a white cobwebby coating was discovered on the surface of hair-ice bearing wood. That was the first time when a link between fungus and ice was outlined. 90 years later, a team of experts embarked on a mission to confirm the interesting association between the two exhibits of living nature.
According to a very detailed study based on extensive experiments, the driving mechanism responsible for producing ice filaments on the wood surface is ice segregation. It seems that water, in its liquid state sticks to the branches to ultimately freeze in contact with the cold air. The interesting combo creates an ice front and builds a thin water film between the resulted ice and the wood pores. The suction resulted from repelling intermolecular forces act upon the wood, water, ice mixture and get the water inside the wood pores to move through the ice front, where it instantly freezes and adds to the existing ice.
Nature performs complex combinations and displays them in a most simple and fascinating manner. The chemical analysis of melted ice revealed that water contained fragments of the organic compounds lignin and tannin. These are well known metabolic products of fungal activity, confirming the biological compound and influence on hair ice.
Image Source: sciencedaily.com