Resurrection Fern; image courtesy of the Nature StationMany plants go dormant in the hot summer months, but the resurrection fern takes this survival tactic to the limit. Normally lush and green like any other fern, Polypodium polypodioideshas has the uncanny ability to  “die” and come back to life hours, days, even decades later.

An epiphyte, or “air plant,” resurrection fern lives its life attached to the branches of a large hardwood tree—an oak, cypress, or pecan.  Like Spanish moss and bromeliads, this fern gets its sustenance not from the host plant, but from the air and from nutrients that collect on the surface of the tree.

In hot, dry weather, resurrection fern ceases normal plant behavior—photosynthesis and respiration—and instead puts its energy into keeping microscopic vascular tissues intact; once the rain returns, the leaves must be capable of absorbing water again.

Until then, however, the fern appears to be dead. Its fronds become brown and brittle, shrunken, gnarled. Estimates vary, but it is thought that resurrection fern can tolerate a water loss of roughly 95percent. “Imagine this happening to a human,” says researcher Ronald Balsamo of Villanova University. “Most of us wouldn't make it past 10 percent or 20 percent.” Neither would most agricultural crops.

Let the rain begin, though, and in less than a day, the fern will be green and plump once again: Resurrection.

May our own souls, when shrunken and dry in times of drought, be wise enough to wait, tenacious enough to hold on. And may we ever be ready to receive the rain which, when it comes, brings resurrection: Life.

Resurrection Fern image courtesy of The Nature Station.