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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - February 04, 2009

From: Centennial, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Herbs/Forbs
Title: Resurrection plant not reviving.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have what might be a resurrection plant but it never turns green. When it is watered it opens up and turns from tan to dark brown. Is it just a different variety of resurrection plant or something else altogether?

ANSWER:

There are two plants, Selaginella lepidophylla (flower of stone) and Anastatica hierochuntica (rose of Jerico) that are commonly referred to as resurrection plant and another, Pleopeltis polypodioides ssp. polypodioides (resurrection fern), that is sometimes called resurrection plant.  Anastatica hierochuntica is a Sahara Desert native and is probably not the plant species you're inquiring about. Pleopeltis polypodioides is native to the southeastern US and is more commoly known as resurrection fern than resurrection plant.  Therefore we think your plant is probably Selaginella lepidophylla, a native of the Chihuahuan desert.

If we are right in our deductive reasoning, then we're afraid that nothing can be done to help you.  Your plant is dead and nothing short of divine intervention is going to resurrect it.  Selaginella lepidophylla grows in desert area of Texas, New Mexico and Mexico along rocky ledges.  It is collected in great numbers (probably much over-collected!) by ripping the plants from their roots.  The plant dries into a ball of foliage that unfurls upon adding water.  Unscrupulous marketers sell these plants to unsuspecting customers who have no idea that the plants can never be revived to a living, growing state.

 

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