|Posted by flaflwrgrl (North Fl. - Zone 8b) on Nov 15, 2011 7:24 PM
The resurrection fern gets its name because it can survive long periods of drought by curling up its fronds and appearing grey-brown and dead. However, when moisture is present even as small amount as dew, the fern will uncurl and reopen, appearing to "resurrect" and revive itself to a beautiful green color within about 24 hours. It has been estimated that these plants could go 100 years without water and still revive after a single soaking.
When the fronds "dry", they curl with their bottom sides upwards. In this manner, they can rehydrate themselves rapidly when rain comes, as most of the water is absorbed on the underside of the leaves. Experiments have shown that they can lose almost all their free water and remain alive - up to 97%, though commonly they only lose around 76% in dry spells. In contrast, most other plants would die after losing only 8-12%. When drying, the plant synthesizes dehydrins, which allow the cell walls to fold in a way which can be reversed later.
Polypodium polypodioides has a natural range in hardwood forests from Delaware to southern Illinois, south to Texas and Florida and throughout tropical America. It also occurs naturally in southern Africa! In the southeastern United States, resurrection fern is often found on large, spreading branches high up in old live oaks (Quercus virginiana). It is often associated with another interesting epiphyte, Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides).
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