Resurrection Fern

Resurrection Fern

Resurrection Fern

The shape-shifter accents Jekyll’s stately oaks

By Candice Dyer

The resurrection fern is a living metaphor for a kind of miracle. During dry periods, it will desiccate, shrivel, and turn brown. But just give it some rain and within twenty-four hours it becomes a lush green carpet. Look for the ferns cloaking the boughs of live oaks, especially the large ones in Jekyll’s historic district.

Resurrection ferns create their own microclimate along with the trees and Spanish moss. The mat of ferns is a haven for lizards and insects, which draw birds.

The fern does not harm the tree because it’s an epiphyte, meaning it derives its nutrients from the air.

For other plants, losing as much as 8 percent of their hydration proves catastrophic, but a resurrection fern can relinquish 97 percent of its water and still bounce back.

The Aztecs used resurrection ferns medicinally as a diuretic and a liver healer.

Astronauts on a Discovery shuttle mission took the fern into space to see if it would resurrect in zero gravity. Indeed, it did.

This article first appeared in Volume 3 Number 1 of 31•81, the Magazine of Jekyll Island.

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