Resurrection fern is an epiphytic fern, which means it grows on top of other plants and surfaces but does not harm its host. These ferns love to grow on oak and cypress trees. It is native throughout the Southeast United States, as far north as New York and as far west as Texas, and is also native to southern Africa.  

This fern can lose 75% of its water content during a dry period and 97% during an extreme drought. Most other plants can only lose 10% of their water content before they die. When dry, the plant’s leaves shrivel to grayish-brown. When exposed to water, the fern will expand and turn green, as if it has come back to life! It is estimated that resurrection fern could last 100 years without water and still revive after a single exposure to rain.  

Fun fact: In 1997, resurrection fern was taken into space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery to watch its resurrection in zero gravity! 

 How to revive a resurrection fern: 

  1. 1. Fill a spray bottle or water bottle full of room temperature water. 
  2. 2. Take your watering device, and explore your neighborhood carefully examining oak trees (while practicing safe social distancing). 
  3. 3. Look all up and down the trunk and low branches of the oak trees, anywhere your water will reach, for a resurrection fern. 
  4. 4. Once you have found the fern, spray it with water. If you want to give the fern a more realistic rainstorm experience, you can make thunder noises as you spray. 
  5. 5. Observe the fern turning green as it is revived by the water! 

About the Author

Emily Kless is Education Programs Assistant for Naples Botanical Garden. Although she admits she doesn’t have the greatest green thumb, she loves to get down in the dirt volunteering on a small, local farm, and is proud to say that she typically manages to be more help than harm!

Questions? Email us at, or read the Garden FAQ.

Return to the Garden Blog