Resurrection Fern - Gray Polypody - Scaly Polypody
Pleopeltis michauxiana - (Weath.) Hickey & Sprunt
Polypodiaceae Family


Resurrection Fern is a species of creeping, coarse-textured fern native to the Americas and Africa. The evergreen fronds are monomorphic (one form only). The leathery, yellow-green leaflets are deeply pinnatifid (deeply devided), oblong to narrowly lanceolate, usually widest near the middle, occasionally at or near the base. It attaches to the limbs of its host plant with a branching, creeping, slender rhizome. The scales are lance-like with light brown base and margins, and bear a dark central stripe.

The fronds develop from small spores that float in the air and are deposited on moist tree branches. It can also reproduce through rhizome division. On the underside of the blades, the reproductive clusters are round, discrete, and sunken. Their outline can be seen as raised dimples on the upper surface. They are typically near the outer edge, and occur on all but the lowest leaflets of the fertile fronds.

The fern is an air plant, which means it attaches itself to other plants and gets its nutrients from the air and from water and nutrients that collect on the outer surface of tree bark. It is not a parasite. The resurrection fern lives on the branches of large trees and can often be seen carpeting the shady areas on tree limbs. It is known to grow on the surfaces of dead logs as well.

The Plant resides in the hardwood forests of the southeastern United States and is also found in sub-tropical America and parts of southern Africa.

The fern gets its name from its ability to survive for long periods of drought by curling its fronds and appearing shriveled, grey-brown and dead. However, when just a little water is present, the fern will uncurl and reopen, appearing to "resurrect" and restoring itself to a vivid green color within a few hours. It has been estimated that these plants could last 100 years without water and still revive after a single exposure. When the fronds are drying out, they curl with their bottom sides upwards. In this way, they can rehydrate quickly when rain comes, as most of the water is absorbed on the underside of the leaf blades. When drying, the plant synthesizes dehydrins, which allow the cell walls to fold in a way which can be reversed later.

Previous Page     Return to Index     Next Page