A Fun-Loving Guide to the Natural World for Kids and Adults


When I was little, icicles were daggers and swords, and I’d wander through the woods with one in my glove and an extra thrust in my belt, searching out orcs and goblins to do battle with.  I haven’t slain any evil creatures with ice-blades for many years now, but I still love icicles.  They always form the most fascinating shapes.  The other day I found myself wondering – just how are icicles formed?

The Weather Doctor gives a detailed description of how they grow, but for me the fascinating thing was to learn that they grow in layers, much like an onion, and that they form ridges as they grow.  It all has to do with the way that water melts, freezes, and interacts with gravity.  I had always just assumed that water dripped down to the end and froze there!

Eager to check out the Weather Doctor’s information for myself, I went out and harvested an icicle from the edge of the roof.  There are those ridges . . .

Then I heated up a knife and made a cross-section so we could see the different layers.

Icicles are common on houses, but are a little more difficult to find out in nature.  At a recent adventure to the sea caves on Lake Superior, Rebecca and I saw a lot of spectacular ones formed along the cliffs.  And when the weather is just right, you can find them hanging from tree branches.

The best icicles of all aren’t made of water, but maple sap.  Sometimes, when the spring sap starts to run and then the temperature drops down again, you can find little icicles hanging from maple branches.  Take one off and have a taste!  You’ve discovered one of nature’s best treats – frozen Maplecicles.  We’ll be searching  for these elusive treasures this spring if the weather cooperates!

One Response to “Icicles”

  1. Thanks for this information. We just saw these icicles on our Silver Maple for the first time this morning-it was 20*F last night, much colder than the days before.

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