Scientific Name: Pleopeltis polypodioides
Description: This remarkable plant can lose about 75 percent of its water content during a typical dry period and possibly up to 97 percent in an extreme drought. During this time, it shrivels up to a grayish brown clump of leaves. When it is exposed to water again, it will “come back to life” and look green and healthy. The plant gets its name from this supposed “resurrection,” but it never actually dies during the process. By contrast, most other plants can only lose 10 percent of their water content before they die.
Size: Fronds are typically 4 to 12 inches in length.
Habitat: Due to its ability to withstand drought, it can be found in variety of habitats, but it needs a host plant or other substrate on which to anchor. Resurrection fern often favors oak trees.
Range: This fern is found throughout the southeast, as far north as New York and as far west as Texas.
Life History and Reproduction: The resurrection fern is a type of epiphytic fern, meaning that it grows on top of other plants or structures and that it reproduces by spores, not seeds. The spores are housed in structures called sori on the underside of fronds. Although resurrection fern grows on top of other plants, they do not steal nutrients or water from their host plant.
Fun Fact: In 1997, the resurrection fern was taken into space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery to watch its resurrection in zero gravity.
Conservation Status: Stable.
University of Illinois Plant Palette
United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences – Florida Forest Plants
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Services – What’s That in My Tree?