The enigma (solved) of ice in the shape of human hair

At the end of 2015, a group of forest agents from the Trossachs National Park, north of Glasgow, left to perform some routine tasks in the heart of the forest. Halfway through the walk, suddenly, they found themselves in the middle of a field full of ice in the shape of cotton candy . That was the time when 'ice hair', a fluffy and silky form of frozen water, became popular around the world.
Now, the images are circulating again. However, it is nothing new: the phenomenon that was discovered in February 1918 in northern Germany by Alfred Wegener, the same scientist who developed the theory of continental drift. Since then, and until recently, it has been a scientific mystery . For some years, we know that, with his first intuition, he was right.

An extremely difficult phenomenon to find

The 'hair of ice' is a quite rare phenomenon that only occurs in latitudes between 45 and 55 degrees north. It has been documented in Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, the Netherlands, Russia, Great Britain, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. High humidity and low temperatures are needed for the phenomenon to occur; however, it is so delicate that the inclemency of the weather usually ends with it .
That's why it's hard to find. Wegener, who caught up with him a couple of times, had pointed out at the time that the 'ice hair' might have something to do with the mycelium that abounded near the ice. The mycelium is a mass of hyphae; that is, the vegetative body of some types of multicellular fungi. I was not wrong at all .
Hielopelo2Hofmann, Preuss and Matzler
Hielopelo3Hofmann, Preuss and Mätzler
In 2012, Matzler, Wagner, Preuss and Hofmann demonstrated that this particular type of ice was actually related to a type of wood mushroom . The researchers realized that the water of the 'ice hair' had a high amount of organic carbon.
The working hypothesis is that water is introduced into dead wood through rain, snow or frost and that an inhibitor of recrystallization related to the fungus promotes that it acquires that form when ice segregation occurs.
Hielopelo4Disappearance of ice after a fungicide treatment | Hofmann, Preuss and Mätzler
To demonstrate this, the researchers applied an antifungal treatment to the wood and, in a very short time, the ice disappeared despite having kept the humidity and temperature constant. That is to say, the key to this marvel is, indeed, in the fungus .
It is amazing .