No, that's not a hairy branch but rather an astounding kind of ice formation called "hair ice" ("haareis" in German). Illinois State University professor James Carter of the Geography-Geology Department, created a page about this natural wonder that includes many photos of these marvelous ice growths, sometimes called "silk frost" or "cotton candy frost."The photo above is by Rick Eppler of Vancouver Island, Canada. From Carter's "Ice Formations on Dead Wood" page:
While the term frost is used frequently as part of such names, these ice formations are not a product of frost. Frost comes about by moisture from the air being deposited on surfaces. As such frost is quite amorphous and would never appear as fine needles like we see here. Hair Ice is ice that grows outward from the surface of the wood, as super-cooled water emerges from the wood, freezes and adds to the hairs from the base.
"Ice Formations on Dead Wood -- Haareis or Hair Ice" (via MAKE:)
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