Resurrection Fern

Blown about by the wind.  Finding life in desiccation. 

Not to be confused by the “true” Rose of Jericho, the “false” Rose of Jericho (S. lepidophylla) is native to the Chihuahuan desert and one of the most adaptive plants here. 

A wanderer, persistent and tough. Tenacious.

S. lepidophylla in its dormant state

Resurrection plants are a prestigious group, including lichen, St Mary’s flower, and the Serbian phoenix flower in Europe.  Able to survive for years in defensive form. Curled in upon themselves, protected in their own arms.  Waiting for the right moment to open back up.

To shelter from the harsh desert sun and lack of water, S. lepidophylla transforms into a ball, hiding its most sensitive tissues.  Folding and unfolding without causing structural damage.  Appearing dead and then rising back to life with water.  Blooming into a green, fern-like moss ready to absorb whatever moisture exists.

S. lepidophylla a few hours after receiving moisture

This desert is an oxymoron of sorts, and change is a constant. No one knows this better than the plants and animals here.  The resurrection fern does what it takes to survive.  Metabolic functions reduced to a minimum.  Able to dry until only 3% of its mass is retained, replenishing itself in a few hours with a turn of weather.

While today, it is often purchased as a novelty. The False Rose of Jericho was noted and used by Spaniards in the new world to demonstrate the concept of being reborn.  An effort to convert natives to their faith.

Over the years, S. lepidophylla has treated colds, sore throats, and helped speed along childbirth.  When worn on the body, the plant is said to absorb negative energy and has been used in Voodoo and Cuban Santeria to invoke love and fortune.

Whatever the belief, whatever the use, one cannot deny the perseverance of this plant.  Adapting and surviving in a changing world, much harsher than the one we endure. 

And in it’s own way, perhaps an inspiration to us all.

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