Saturday, March 7, 2015

Remarkable resurrection ferns

Resurrection ferns dried and hydrated.

Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides)


While I'd seen spare populations of resurrection ferns when I lived in Maryland, I really became aware of them when I read "Light a Distant Fire," an historic novel about Osceola and the Seminoles by Lucia St. Clair Robson. She wrote about how the scouts could disappear into the ferns on the live oak branches. After we moved to Florida, I came to see how this could be accomplished.

This is a true fern that reproduces via spores, but it is also an epiphyte or air plant. It does not need to be in contact with soil to live. It derives its needs from the air, especially the humidity and dust that it carries.

The common name of resurrection fern is due to its ability to lose 95% of its moisture, stop its photosynthesis, and go into a type of suspended state when it appears to be dead. When it rains or when the humidity becomes high enough, the fronds unfurl and turn green in a matter of hours. Hence the name resurrection fern, because it arises from the dead.