Natural Wonders: The Southeast's Living-Dead Plant

See ferns that play dead, then dramatically come back to life.

Natural Wonders: America's Deepest Lake | Florida's Sea Turtle Capital | Southeast's Living-Dead Plant

The Wonder
After a few days of dry heat, resurrection ferns go into a kind of hibernation. This tree-climbing fern found from Virginia to Texas will shrivel its fronds into brownish pinwheels in a matter of weeks, and can stay that way for more than a month, losing up to 97 percent of their water (most plants die after losing 10 percent). Add a little rain, though, and within minutes the frond begins to absorb moisture; in just a few hours, it turns green.

The Way You'll find plenty of resurrections on Fern Hollow Trail, a 9.8-mile loop in White Oak Lake State Park 100 miles southwest of Little Rock, Arkansas. Begin at the trailhead in the tent camping area during a summer dry spell (August is best). At .5 mile, look left for an old home site framed by large oaks with fern mats on their branches. Sprinkle with water and watch them begin to revive and unfurl after 15 minutes. Follow the rolling trail through the forest, and look near trees, logs, and stumps for more death-defying flora.