Thursday, January 26, 2012

Crazy Plants: Resurrection Plant

 This post would have been up on time if my computer hadn't decided to freeze on me.

A resurrection plant (Selaginella lepidophylla). There are many other resurrection plants in the same genus.
A time-lapse of the rehydration process
This plant is a rather remarkable species that can look completely dead, but when water is added can spring back to life as if by magic. The plant is approximately one foot high and is a primitive species that shares characteristics of both ferns and mosses. It is a seedless plant, with its closest relatives being the lycopods such as club mosses and group pines. Though it does appear to have leaves, they are not leaves at all and are instead mere segments of the stem of the plant. It is a desert plant, which is why the ability to dry itself out is so helpful. This is despite the fact that most of the other simple plants in the lycopod grouping require a great deal of moisture to survive. Though the lycopods that exist today are all quite small, the group once included some incredibly tall trees and are what much of the coal seen today came from.

When dry, the plant isn't actually as dead as it appears, but in fact retains what moisture it can and shuts down all but the basic functions it needs to stay alive. This unique characteristic is such a novelty that it is commonly sold to tourists who marvel at its rehydration abilities. It is native to the Southern United States from Arizona to Texas to the area South all the way to El Salvador. However, there are many more resurrection plants than just this one species, with over seven hundred species being in the same genus.

Source is Union County College. Images are from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licenses: one, two.

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