Carefully wrapped in tissue paper inside a gift box was a present that looked a little like a mudball.
It was a gift from Lesley Hildreth, a friend and the leader of the LRNow Oyster Chicks who have made so many interesting nature crafts to sell at our oyster roasts.
Turns out there was method in Lesley’s madness. This was truly a very interesting mudball. The tag described it as a Resurrection Plant that would come to life when watered. Miraculously within an hour after I put it in a bowl of water, the mudball began to fan out into a pretty green, almost cedar like, plant and continued growing bigger for a day or more.
I thought at first it was a resurrection fern which are somewhat common on live oaks in the deep south. I met that fern for the first time on a branch of an ancient live oak in my friend, Meg Campbell’s, back yard at the North End. See my earlier blog:
First Landing State Park and the Dismal Swamp are a couple of places where it can be seen in the wild.
After looking into it, I learned that the two plants are entirely different. The resurrection plant is a moss and the resurrection fern is a fern. But they both have the same M.O. in the sense that they can go for years, literally, without water, get a drink and come back to life. Thus, the name, “resurrection.”
Both also reproduce by spores but then their traits diverge.
The fern, Pleopeltis polypodioides , does look more fern like.
It is an epiphyte, or air plant that only needs a structure, like a tree branch, upon which to grow. Resurrection fern is a native of the southeastern United states and is uncommon farther north.
The resurrection plant, Selaginella Lepidophylla, sometimes called false Rose of Jericho, is actually a rooted desert plant found in the western U. S. and south into Mexico and beyond. Its roots are real roots, not air roots. When it is too dry, the roots detach from the ground and the plant dries up and blows like a tennis ball around the desert until it finds water. Then it will come alive, maybe root again, or continue its travels.
I checked and both resurrection fern and plants are available for purchase on the Internet. The mudballs seem to be more prevalent and a better “gift” because you don’t need a tree to hang it on, only a bowl of water, and the right kind of person to give it to.
And I must add, for me, it was a perfect gift. You know me well, Lesley Hildreth.