Resurrection Fern

Dried fronds of Resurrection Fern; Photo by B.LaVergne, November 2013.
Dried fronds of Resurrection Fern; Photo by B.LaVergne, November 2013.

Have you noticed this dead looking curly stuff on your tree branches?   During drought times, the plant curls inward so the spores on the bottom of the leaves are exposed to the wind, helping to propagate this amazing plant.  Pleopeltis polypodioides is common in our area and is native to the Americas and South Africa.   This intriguing little plant is often called Resurrection Fern or Miracle Fern because of its ability to spring back to life after appearing dead.   Resurrection Fern is a perennial, coarse-textured epiphytic fern, which simply means it takes its nutrients from the air while growing on top of another plant such as oak, cypress & pecan trees.   No nutrients or water is taken from the host plants.   Other such epiphytic plants you’ll recognize are Spanish moss, orchids and bromeliads. 

Resurrection Fern spores; Photo by B.LaVergne, Sept.2013.
Resurrection Fern spores; Photo by B.LaVergne, Sept.2013.

Resurrection Fern blankets many larger branches of an oak tree much the same way a blanket is placed on the back of a horse.   This fern appears to provide comfort and adds a beauty all its own to the trees that are hosting it, often giving a Live Oak a more graceful & aged appearance. 

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This plant can easily lose 75 to 80% of its water during drought seasons and spring back to life once provided with water.   By contrast, most other plants will die after losing approximately 10% to 15 % of water during a drought.  

Try removing a few rhizomes (bulb-like pieces of the root) from a host tree and transplanting them.   Just plan on providing plenty of water for the rhizomes at the new host site until the plants are established.   And for even more fun with your children & grand-children:  find a site that’s on an easy to reach branch, spray water about every 30 minutes on the dried fern and watch it come to life.   Allow the children to participate, watch, take or draw pictures and write about their experience.  Enjoy!

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Live life outdoors!