Plain Gardening: Resurrection Fern


(WKRG)-A question from a Plain Gardening viewer to gardening expert Bill Finch:  “what’s that pinkish-brownish crunchy stuff on my oak trees?”  Bill says the answer is Resurrection Fern.  For the past several weeks, it hasn’t been brownish or crunchy at all, but a bright, vibrant, bouncy green.  There’s a reason it’s called resurrection fern.  It grows in places with very high summer humidity and moisture.

Resurrection fern gets most of its moisture and nutrients from the air, so if it’s not really moist it won’t do well.  But in July on the Gulf Coast—our rainiest and most humid month—oak trees are covered in it.  Even more important than the daily rain is the humidity, which Bill says keeps the resurrection fern looking fresh and beautiful.   It even feels good!

As soon as the rain stops and the humidity drops, resurrection fern shrivels up and you may think it’s dead and gone…but It comes right back.

So, it’s a beautiful ornament to oak trees, but should you be worried about resurrection fern?  Bill says no.  Bill says resurrection fern doesn’t actually take anything from the tree; it’s not a parasite and doesn’t get its nutrients from the tree.  It shares the dirt in the live oak bark and pulls nutrients directly from the air.  The only time it could conceivably be a problem is if you have arching limbs that stretch far from the base of the tree.  In that case the moisture held in the resurrection fern could add water weight, making the branch more likely to shear off.  Since you’ll never get rid of the resurrection fern, Bill says trim the leaves at the tips of the limb to reduce weight at the ends.

Learn more about resurrection fern or ask your own gardening questions by calling Bill’s radio show Sunday mornings from 9-11am on 106.5FM or email

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