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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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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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Friday - June 03, 2005

From: Long Beach, CA
Region: California
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Smarty Plants on Resurrection Plant
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello, I have a plant that my grandmother gave to me. When she gave me the plant it was a dried bundle; but, as soon as she put in water, the plant opened up and came to life again. Then, we let it dry and bundle up again. That was about 8 years ago, and now I put the plant back in water to let it open up. I was wondering if you can help me identify the plant. It has copper-color roots that are very thin and there are no real look-like leaves. It almost looks like coral. It has stems that are light brown when dried, but a dark green when wet and alive again. It is very delicate overall, especially when dried. The stems are thin as well and somewhat dark when wet. It looks like if the stems were the leaves as well. I wonder what it is?

ANSWER:

This sounds like Resurrection Plant (Selaginella lepidophylla). It belongs to a primitive group of plants in the Family Selaginellaceae (Spike-mosses). You can read an excellent description on the Union County College in New Jersey web site where it was featured as "Plant of the Week". It is native to New Mexico and Texas. Its ability to dry up when no moisture is available and revive and grow in the presence of moisture helps it survive in the desert Southwest.
 

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