Polypodium polypodioides, commonly called resurrection fern or gray polypody, will brown up and curl in dry weather to the point where it appears to be dead. After a rain storm, it will magically uncurl and green up (resurrect itself) until dry weather returns. This is a terrestrial or epiphytic fern that is native from Maryland to Kansas south to Florida, Texas and tropical America. It can be found primarily growing on wet tree trunks and limbs in swampy areas, on trees along streams and on mossy ledges or shaded boulders. This fern is epiphytic or lithophytic in that it grows on tree trunks (e.g., live oaks, cypresses, magnolias and elms) without receiving any food or water from the tree, or on rocks. Nutrients are received from air, water and the outer surfaces on which the fern grows. This is a semi-evergreen fern with a long-creeping rhizome that grows in a clump to 12” tall. It has lance-shaped fronds (4-8” long), with each frond having 8-14 pairs of oblong pinnae (each to 1/8” wide). It reproduces by spores. It is somewhat similar to Polypodium virginianum. There are no serious insect or disease problems.
Grow it in moist shady areas, but be forewarned that it can be difficult to establish. This fern must be sited in a protected location and kept moist until it establishes itself on the desired substrate. It can be outcompeted by weeds when growing on soil.
It is an interesting fern that may be grown in shaded sites such as on tree trunks, fallen logs, old stumps, ledges or rocks. Also will grow on wet fence posts or retaining walls. It may be planted in the ground between rocks. At times, its ornamental features are absent, resurrecting themselves only after rain storms.
Adapted with thanks, from the Missouri Botanic Garden Plant Finder.