Resurrection FernResurrection Fern
Family: Polypodiaceae
Genus: Pleopeltis plee-oh-PEL-tiss
Species: polypodioides  pol-ee-pod-ee-OY-deez

The commonly called Resurrection fern is a Texas native epiphyte. This is one of those truly fun ferns. I was looking up at my Walnut tree and all the branches are covered with these seemingly dead ferns. I went and got my camera for this article because it was supposed to rain the first part of the week. I thought this would make a good before and after shot. We did not get any rain though, so I had to cheat and turn on the sprinkler. This should be one of the many ferns we see on our field trip to the Little Thicket. Epiphyte is like an air plant, it grows on something (a tree) but does not get any nutrients from the host. So it does not harm the tree it only uses the tree to live on, not to live. Many of us remember this fern as Polypodium polypodioides. That was so much fun to say!! This polypodium is extremely drought tolerant, it will turn brown and curl up it leaves and retreats into a little cluster. When the rain comes, it is able to rehydrate itself by the underside of the leaf sucking in the water, swelling, and then folding back out to burst open. The green chlorophyll in the leaves rejuvenates and you have a beautiful carpet of ferns growing up the trunk of a big hardwood tree and down its branches. The resurrection process takes about 24 hours. Here in East Texas, it is very common to see Spanish moss growing in the same tree. This makes for a very beautiful combination of plants growing in the forest. Experiments have shown that the fern can lose up to 97 percent of its water or be dormant for 100 years and still be resurrected with a good soaking from Mother Nature. With our humidity, how could it ever lose that last 3 percent of water when we have almost liquid air? How to grow this fern outside of nature? That is a good question. I have not had the best luck with this, but then I have not tried very hard since we have them in most of our trees here at the house. When we have lost limbs off a tree that have the fern all over it, I will bring it up to the house and enjoy it, but it seems to only last about a year for me when left on the limb and not doing anything to change the growing medium. While I was researching for this article, I found information on how to grow it as a house plant. It said to use a clay pot and very coarse sand, no soil and no sphagnum moss. Water it in the Spring and Fall and let it dry out over Summer and Winter. It did suggest high humidity and we know with our air conditioners we lose that in the house, so place in a saucer with pebbles to keep the fern from losing 100 percent of its moisture. This might be something we try for a work shop.... I have the plants. Did you know that this fern was taken into space as part of a NASA experiment to watch its resurrection in zero gravity? Pretty special!!!