Total Eclipse: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Festival of Science, Music, and Celestial Wonder. August 19–21, 2017 in Eastern Oregon.

Fleeting Wonders: Scottish Trees Grow Mysterious Ice Toupees

A Dutch branch shows off a hair ice wig.

A Dutch branch shows off a hair ice wig. (Photo: Ronaldhuizer/WikiCommons CC BY 3.0)

Weird winter fashion has hit the forests of Scotland. As the weather cools down, rotting trees have started sporting thick coats of “hair ice”–a fungus-water hybrid that looks like a tufty white wig.

Hair ice forms late at night, giving normally bald sticks everything from Santa beards to sausage curls. Its tenure is modishly brief–as soon as the world starts warming up in the morning, the new ‘dos vanish like cotton candy in a puddle

Like any complex style, hair ice requires specific conditions: in this case, high humidity, temperatures hovering just below zero, and the presence of a particular fungus called Exidiopsis effusa.

This fungus enables the ice to keep its strange shape by providing “recrystallization inhibitors,” which prevent large ice crystals from replacing the smaller ones, scientists told the BBC

Lately, hair ice has been showing up in Scotland and New York, but it can appear pretty much anywhere if the atmosphere is right. If you’re in the market for a January makeover, go for a sunrise walk and check out nature’s newest toupée line before it melts away.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to [email protected].