Resurrection Fern

I’ve mentioned resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides) here once or twice before when I’ve written about live oak trees, but I have yet to devote a post entirely to these green fronds that blanket the trunks and limbs of the twisting oaks.

This fern is an epiphyte, a plant that grows on other plants and gets its water and nutrients (at least partially) directly from the air. The fact that this species and Spanish moss, also an epiphyte, both thrive here tells you a lot about how rich and moist the air on the island is.

The religious overtones to its common name come from this fern’s amazing ability to survive long periods with no water. If a drought hits, it dessicates, turning brown and curling up and looking quite dead. However, one good soak is enough to revive it, causing it to unfurl and turn bright green once again. Supposedly they can make it as long as a hundred years without water if they have to, and I’ve even heard mention of fern fronds pressed in books to preserve them being successfully resurrected by a drink.

A close look at the bases of the fronds reveals their branching, creeping rhizomes, seeking purchase among the textures of bark and moss and lichen.

The band Iron & Wine (well, Iron & Wine is really one guy, so not a band, but you know what I mean) actually has a song called “Resurrection Fern,” on the album The Shepherd’s Dog. I was surprised and delighted to discover this when the song popped up on Pandora one afternoon after I’d just gotten back from walking in the forest!

7 thoughts on “Resurrection Fern”

  1. Last May manyof those ferns were looking very dry. My Atlantan friend who took me to Cumberland was worried by the ‘chiggers’ living in the Spanish moss. I just shrugged as I’m used to ticks on my own property in the subtropics on the east coast of Australia. Just get out some oil and smother them, and they drop off real quick. I’ve managed to avoid the tick-borne diseases so far.

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