Researchers Finally Solve The ”Hair-Ice” Mystery

It has always been a mystery as to how “hair-ice” was formed in rotting tree branches, but thanks to scientists, the mystery seems to be solved for the world. With the presence of cold-tolerant fungi, the fungal roots- specifically mycelium – absorb nutrients which form cobweb-like coating, eventually leading to delicate strands of glistening ice, or “hair-ice”.
Leading on to Alfred Wegener’s identification and study in 1918, researchers found evidence of his theory of hair ice in the early 21st century.
Even though ice is still present with or without fungal activity, it’s absence leads to a shape more of crust-like structure. The fungus holds it’s shape with thickness measured to be as low as 0.01 inches.
Growing mostly at night and melting or fading away as early as the sun rises, temperatures staying below freezing point and certain levels of humidity can help keep the shape for a longer period.
Exidiopsis effuse, one of the 11 species of fungi found in hair ice, tends to be present in almost all of the cases, while others might vary. Moreover, similar such formations of ice are to be found from dead plants and soil too, but it’s the absence of any kind of fungi that distinguishes it from tree wood.
Deeper analysis of such ice found out two organic compounds; lignin and tannin to be present. In contrast to the effect of lignin, white rot can increase the brightness of ice as it helps decompose wood enhancing the fungi’s effect.
What’s interesting is that the length of each strand grows 10,000 times longer than the thickness. Growth of tufts, however, is influenced by structure of the wood through which it radiates. With the center part similar to human hair, they can either extend straight or curl back to the branch.
The crystallization nucleus found by researchers is considered to be the root of hair ice. It is frozen water when the temperature falls to a certain degree. The nuclei helps the water to seep out of the wood to form hair ice.
Researchers have studied hair ice very deeply, but still aim to fine-tune it’s details and come up with more explanations in the future.


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