Resurrection Fern

By William T. Hathaway

Resurrection Fern

There are two polypody ferns found locally. The Rock Cap Fern is the larger of the two with its essentially smooth green leaves. It caps rocks of the piedmont and mountainous areas. Resurrection Ferns, in contrast, have dull gray-green leaves that are scurfy with minute scales. They inhabit mountains, piedmont and coastal regions.

I first spotted a resurrection fern in the crotch of a large elm tree in Milton, North Carolina. As time moved on, I was able to find several large colonies along the Banister River cliffs near Markham in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.

In prolonged dry weather this little polypody appears as a crusty, desiccated waste of a fern, deprived of its vigor (top photo). Many times throughout the year with the arrival of a gentle rain it casts off its faded mode and becomes a full-fledged fern.