The Magic of the Resurrection Fern, a Sea Island Miracle

Perhaps you have or haven’t noticed, but a small miracle happens when it rains on the Sea Islands. As many miracles do, this one happens quietly and without fanfare, in the form of a little plant that can be found mostly in oak trees, and sometimes in pecan trees.

The unassuming fern I refer to is an epiphyte – a fancy word that means it’s an air plant. It gets its nutrients from its host tree, and generally just hangs around being, well, “ferny”. It’s what ferns do.

In a low water environment, it can lose up to 75% of its moisture – making it look dead – without actually dying. It turns brown and kind of crispy and, to the unknowing eye, one would think it’s beyond hope.

But then the rain comes, and with it, the miracle of the Resurrection Fern (scientific name: Pleopeltis polypodioides – a spectacle of alliteration that is a miracle in and of itself) and before you know it, the fern comes back to life – thus the origin of its name.

The miracle of the Resurrection Fern usually catches me a little off guard. Passing under the large oak tree on Yard Farm road on the way to town, I don’t notice it. Then, while I’m gone, it rains and on the way back home, there it is, green and vibrant and fully alive.

I am in love with the amazing resilience of the Resurrection Fern. I think it teaches us a valuable and enduring lesson – that the “rain” in our lives can often bring out our very best beauty.

That’s a pretty profound sermon from a little plant that spends its time hanging out in trees, just breathing the air.

Follow your heart, stay focused on what’s important, and protect the magic that is our Sea Island home.


Photo: Ginger Wareham

 Story written for EatStayPlayBeaufort by Elizabeth Bishop Later,  A Place Called Home