Resurrection fern

Pleopeltis polypodioides var. michauxiana
Family: Polypodiaceae

Natural History
Resurrection fern on a tree trunk
Photo credit: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org

Resurrection fern is a fascinating plant that's very common in the Southeast and found from Florida to New York and west to Texas.

The fern is an air plant, which means it attaches itself to other plants and absorbs the water and nutrients that collect on the outer surface of bark. Resurrection fern lives on the branches of large trees such as cypresses and live oaks. It is often found in the company of other air plants such as Spanish moss and wild pine.

The resurrection fern gets its name because it can survive long periods of drought by curling up and appearing dead. When just a little water is present, the fern will uncurl and reopen, appearing to resurrect. This tiny plant has even been taken on a space shuttle mission to watch it resurrect itself in space!


 

Identifying Characteristics

Habitat: It is found in many habitats throughout Florida and is most often seen growing on the branches or main stem of large trees.
Size/Form: This tiny, creeping fern has a long stem to which the fronds are attached. Extensive colonies of resurrection ferns can be formed in the open shade of trees.
Stem: The long, horizontal, skinny stem is less than 1/12" in diameter and is attached to and creeps along the bark of large trees.
Leaves: The leathery, evergreen leaves are called fronds and are 4" to 12" long. The fronds are made of smaller, rounded, oblong blades alternately arranged but tending to become opposite.
Sori: The spores are found in clusters, called sori, on the bottom of the blades near the edge. The sori appear as brown to black scales.

 

Images

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