Thursday, January 8, 2015

Native Plants: Resurrection Fern

Pleopeltis polypodioides (syn. Polypodium polypodioides), known as the resurrection fern, is a species of creeping, coarse-textured fern native to North America.

When the fronds "dry", they curl with their bottom sides upwards so they can rehydrate quickly when rain comes, as most of the water is absorbed on the underside of the leaf blades. They lose around around three quarters of their free water in dry spells, sometimes up to 97% without losing the ability to revive.

Resurrection fern is often seen on Live Oak trees in the South as seen here in summer in conjunction with Spanish moss. They frequently grow on ancient pecan trees here, on stones and even on soil. An epiphyte, resurrection fern is not a parasite on the host.

Not a parasite but it does tend to grow on ancient limbs.

Pecan tree with fern.

Oak tree above. You can gather a starter plant about 6" from a fallen branch in the woods and inoculate your own trees, tucking it into crevices in the bark. .

Growing on a piece of dead wood.

On a large stone with lichens.

On a concrete bench among brick pieces, a tiny piece 
attached to bark that fell on the ground months ago.

I planted Resurrection Fern with Christmas Cactus and a Bromeliad in a grapevine ball a couple of years ago. I was not successful in keeping the environment moist enough indoors for the fern to thrive. 

This clump has grown on an old dinner plate for years, outdoors.

Resurrection fern earned the title of `first fern in space’ when it traveled aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1997. The fern was taken into space to observe its resurrection at zero gravity and the results showed that the fern was able to complete this process without gravity.


  1. What a fascinating fern! I didn't know that there were epiphytic ferns.

  2. I love this fern. It is growing on my Norfolk pine. You have quite a bit of it growing there. Great photos.


  3. I hadn't heard of this fern before! I wonder if it grows near our coast, where the zones are much warmer.

  4. A sweet fern! It looks very much like the one that grows on trees here where it's very dry for about three months and they always look fresh and green once the rains return in the fall. Ah, the Spanish moss growing on the tree is so beautiful!

  5. I have not heard that name before but I saw these in photographs and wondered what they were. Thanks for that info. I read about the Elephant Foot. You have a lot of info here.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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