The Drought Resistant Florida Resurrection Fern

Florida Resurrection Fern is Drought Resistant

Florida’s Resurrection Fern (Polypodium polypodioides) is a native air plant well suited for the climate. An epiphyte (receives nutrients and moisture from the air and its host plant), it is so named because it seemingly returns from the dead. This plant fascinates residents and visitors alike.

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Easily overlooked in dry seasons as the plant goes dormant (up to 100 years, according to some experts) and appears to die, shriveling in size and curling in on itself, the resurrection fern springs back to life with the arrival of rain. The Resurrection Fern seems to root high on trees and oftentimes blankets the mossy limbs of the Live Oak. It is not, however, parasitic in nature, and does not harm the tree, unlike Spanish moss or a Strangler Fig.

Renewal Found in the Resurrection Fern

Ressurection Fern

As it renews itself on the moisture, the fronds unfurl and turn a bright, deep green. The frond itself looks prehistoric, each section of leaf smaller than my little finger where it was green at the base, curled and dry with a gray death pall on most of the shriveled leaf. If you separate the unfolding fronds, gently pulling them apart so that you can see the base of the plant, you’ll see that there is still green at the root ends, dotted in even lines with tiny black spots. These spores are transported through the air, replanting itself on a nearby host tree.

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A hardy plant, it is perfectly designed to withstand drought, right down to the positioning of the fronds. As access to moisture dries up, each small frond shrivels and turns bottoms up, exposing the part of the leaf that gets first shot at returning rains, which, coincidentally, is a key area on the frond itself for nurturing the rest of the leaf.

Resurrection Fern Lessons

Man would do well to take a lesson from the Resurrection Fern, remembering that a garden does not grow without nurturing. There is another part of the equation, however. Resurrection ferns have to be tough enough to make it to revival. Without this ability to survive long periods of drought, it would be just another fern. There are times when gardens flourish and times of dormancy. If our hearts are strong enough to survive during times of little or even no nurturing, just like the Resurrection Fern, they will blossom when attention returns, stronger and more beautiful than ever before.

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When you visit Florida, take a moment to look for the Southern Live Oaks that thrive in our state, and don’t overlook the resurrection fern, Whether in wet season or in the dry seasons.

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