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Resurrection Fern

Resurrection Fern

Pleopeltis polypodioides

Status: Not Listed

Classification: Plant

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 lose only 10 percent of their water content before they die. Fronds are typically 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 centimeters) in length.

Range

This fern is found throughout the Southeast, as far north as New York and as far west as Texas. Due to its ability to withstand drought, it can be found in a variety of habitats, but it needs a host plant or other substrate on which to anchor itself. Resurrection ferns often favor oak trees.

Life History

The resurrection fern is a type of epiphytic fern, which means it grows on top of other plants or structures and reproduces by spores, not seeds. The spores are housed in structures called sori on the underside of fronds. Although resurrection ferns grow on top of other plants, they do not steal nutrients or water from their host plant.

Conservation

The resurrection fern population is stable.

Fun Fact

In 1997, the resurrection fern was taken into space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery to watch its resurrection in zero gravity.

Sources

NatureServe Explorer

United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

University of Illinois Plant Palette

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