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Resurrection Fern

In the landscape profession it is considered to be disconcerting when plant material meets its demise.  Was it an irrigation failure?  Was the soil inconsistent to the needs of the plant?  Too much sun?  Too little?  The answers to these questions are vital to discerning how to care for other plant materials found in the same locale.  Imagine how confounding it can be to stumble upon a plant which dies and revitalizes itself all within the span of a day. 

The Resurrection Fern, or Pleopeltis polypodiodes, does just that.  As an epiphyte, a plant that grows on a surface or structure such as rocks or a tree obtaining its moisture requirements and nutrient needs from the air, rain and debris material, the Resurrection Fern shares commonalities with other epiphytic plants including moss, orchids and bromeliads.  Using its host primarily for physical support, the Resurrection Fern’s root system is comprised of what has been described as being rhizomes; a creeping rootstalk that allows the fern to spread out on its host colonizing new sites.  Its name is a reflection of the plant’s ability to survive periods of extensive drought in which it leaves will wither while it conserves water in its root system.  Once rain or moisture finds the plant, the leaves regenerate themselves appearing as though the plant has resurrected itself from death.

On your next walk through a tree lined area be on the look-out for the Resurrection Fern; a plant so interesting that it traveled aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery (1997) to allow its resurrection to be witnessed in zero gravity.

National Wildlife Federation

University of Florida IFAS Bay County

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