Resurrection fern

Tiger_lily_sc(8a)February 23, 2003


Just wondering if anyone has ever tried Resurrection fern. Latin name? I dunno, but it's the fern that lives on the bark in trees (mostly oaks) that shrivels up to nothing during dry weather and miraculously comes out with rain. It's easy to get if you live in an area with old oaks, just wait for a wind storm. It's a beautiful fern and certainly wouldn't outgrown it's space as it would only live on the bark.

Penny in SC

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paul_(z5 MI)

I could be wrong, but I thought I remembered reading -- a long time ago -- that those "resurrection ferns" are not really alive. That they are, in fact, the dried remains of a plant that simply swell like a sponge upon absorbing moisture.

I'll have to pop back and see what all turns up here -- I'm curious.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2003 at 9:20PM
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if it's dead when it flufs back up it sure doesn't look like it! i've got a couple of sizable pieces out by my waterfeature that only look good after a substantial rain,but when that condition is met,there's no way anyone could convince me that it's not alive. on the other hand,sphagnum takes on an algae that can fool you into believing that lazarus has come forth,but that suckers long long gone! LOL

    Bookmark   February 23, 2003 at 9:35PM
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Paul got my curiosity up so I did a search and here's a link. They are alive but certainly look dead in a drought. They are beautiful! By searching, I found out there's lots of species but the one on the link is the only one I'm familiar with. Thanks, Paul. I learned something!!

TigerLily aka Penny

Here is a link that might be useful: Resurrection fern

    Bookmark   February 23, 2003 at 10:23PM
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Yeah, I've got a nice chunk of the stuff, too! Some thoughtful sweetie (with a couple sizable pieces by his water feature) shared with me :) I left it outside until fall, then brought it in under glass (well, plastic, really) under lights. When it started to lose leaves in spite of the humidity, I figured it was dormancy time & put it in the garage for a few weeks. Now it's back in the house, making a return to spring with tiny new green fronds. I'm not certain whether it needed a dormancy period, but it seemed to do the plant good.

BTW, Jon, I had sphagum pull a Lazarus act & try to take over a rooting case; no mere algae coating, but the real thing. I finally figured it must've had viable spores in the with the dead moss.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2003 at 10:31AM
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and you still have some? ***batting eyelashes***

    Bookmark   February 24, 2003 at 11:15AM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Well that was interesting!

Btw how fast does the plant grow?

Oh Jon I definitely have some very alive moss that grew out of some dead stuff. Ooojen -- spores are the answer. Amazing how long they can remain viable.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2003 at 9:58PM
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Sadly, Jon, I let it dry out, but for you, I'll find some more ;)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2003 at 2:07PM
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I was going to mention-- I think I know what you were thinking of about the dead stuff, Paul. Resurrection fern is also the common name of a Selaginella sp. that curls up like a ball when it's dry & unfurls when it's moist. I think they can only do the cycle a few times before they die, and you're right that the ones you find for sale are very likely to already be dead.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2003 at 2:18PM
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Does anyone know where I can get some of this Resurrection fern? I sure would like to have some. I am also looking for some Spanish moss too.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2003 at 5:59PM
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eBay might have what you want. I've been very happy with Tillandsias I got from the seller "rarearthgallery" and I know they sometimes sell res. ferns and Spanish moss. I don't think they have any up right now, but if you check back, they'll probably have them sometime soon. (Or you might check another seller; I just had good luck with the plants I got from that particular one.)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2003 at 6:59PM
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The Resurrection Ferns scientific name is Polypodium polypodioides. I have been going out of my way for six years to accommodate this fern in a terrarium. I have found that it grows well on a substrate of sphagnum and fir bark. It needs high humidity and air movement.

The selaginella mentioned above is not Polypodium polypodioides and is definitely not an epiphyte that grows on oak trees.
And the green suff that can be bought at Lowes and Home Depot known as air fern is really a seaweed and not a fern.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2003 at 9:02PM
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I thought my post was clear, but I guess maybe not. I wasn't suggesting that the Selaginella (S. lepidophylla) was the same thing as the Polypodium polypodioides, just that they share their common name (and properties of hydrochasia).

    Bookmark   April 27, 2003 at 10:01PM
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Jackson and Perkins also sells it cheaply. Go to and then search for Resurrection. I just bought eight of them and I'm planning to stick them in sphagnum moss on the trunk of a Juniper "cave" I made. I already have several other tree trunk growing ferns in there, doing well after seven years. On the sphagnum moss, I've had it regrow, but the slightest dryness kills it completely. We get Santana winds here, and it always does in my Oregon/Washington live mosses even when I'm out there wetting them every couple of hours. You can get live sphagnum moss, and spanish moss on ebay at very reasonable prices. The Spanish moss does best, but the birds slowly take it all to make nests............arghhhh.......

    Bookmark   February 18, 2004 at 9:25PM
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homer_zn5(z5 IN)

I have a nice piece of the Polypodium growing in my terrarium (I've had it for about a year now). It is slowly spreading, and it looks great.

I tried placing this in a few areas of my terrarium, mounting it on the back wall, placing it in the substrate . . etc. (I had a 1 foot x 1 foot piece to cut up and play with, and I sent most of it to another GW member in a more southern zone). I found that the pieces on the back wall just weren't getting enough moisture (even at 80% + humidity and daily misting). However, the piece that was placed on top of the substrate by my waterfall (constantly moist) is thriving.

My substrate is a mix of 1/4 and 1/2 inch coco husk chips mixed with about 10% activated charcoal. An interesting note: the old pieces of bark/fern roots are now (8 months later) sprouting another type of fern. It's too young to identify yet, but we'll see if it is the Polyploides or another genus/species.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2004 at 10:06AM
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jenniebutterfly(6 BRKLYN,NY)

i had a resurrection fern for about 5 months till i got rid of my fishtank, i had it floating around there for a while. what i have heard about them is that they can go dormant for about 50 years. then when it rains they will come back to life. i looked at pictures of the names you are all mentioning, but did not see the one i had. the fern i had when dry was shaped kinda like an egg, and when resurrected it was opened up like a plate. it also went from very yucky brown to a lush beautiful green, and i must have let it get wet and dry out about 100 times jsut to prove to people how it would work. i don't know how you would incorporate it into a terrarium, but i bet it would look really nice in there :) jennie

    Bookmark   February 29, 2004 at 10:43PM
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ara133(central PA)

I'm posting this a bit late, so don't know if anyone will see it, however you can buy the resurrection fern at (they call it dinosaur plant, I think). I got some a while ago, it opened up and was all green... and then I accidentally let it dry up too soon I think, and it is now brownish-yellow. I'm 99% sure it was my fault, not a problem with the plant.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2004 at 11:37AM
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ara133(central PA)

Nevermind - I was thinking of a different plant! Selaginella Lepidophylla. Sorry!!!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2004 at 2:30PM
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i live in louisiana and have researched the history of the resurrection fern and posted it on my son's web site, if you would like more information, it also has the legend of the spanish moss, very interesting

Here is a link that might be useful: resurrection fern/spanish moss history/legend

    Bookmark   December 13, 2004 at 1:02PM
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I grow this plant as an epiphyte in my terrarium. I grow it in a fairly dark spot that stays moist (most of the time) in a 'groove' I cut into the background. I wrap it in sphagnum moss, and it's fronds are unfurled most of the time. So far, rot hasnt been a problem for me.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 10:39AM
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