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Watch a dried-out 'resurrection plant' unfurl in water

A desiccated ball of desert plant known as a Rose of Jericho revives in a dish of water to show how it became known as a "resurrection plant."

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

On Saturday night, a good friend handed me a small brown paper bag as a gift. Inside, I found a ball of dry, brown plant matter with straggly short roots hanging off the bottom. It looked like something you would find in a Cthulhu worshiper's garden. I was absolutely thrilled to receive a dead-looking hunk of plant because this is a Rose of Jericho, a botanical curiosity that requires just a bit of water to make it thrive.

The plant's botanical name is Selaginella lepidophylla, though it's commonly called a resurrection plant, a Rose of Jericho or a false Rose of Jericho since there's another plant with similar characteristics that goes by the same name. It hails from the Chihuahuan Desert and is part of the spikemoss family.

I revived the plant by placing it, roots down, in a shallow dish of water. I photographed it as it slowly began to unfurl its almost fern-like appendages and then put the images together into a time lapse covering its first 10 hours of water exposure.

There's a sense of magic here. The brown lifeless-looking leaves open up like a blooming flower and the centers turn a dark green. It gives off a subtle herbal scent reminiscent of rosemary.

In the desert, the resurrection plant uses this curl-up-and-dry mechanism as a way to survive arid conditions. It waits for moisture, revives itself and then repeats the process as needed. Sitting there on my kitchen counter on a day when a cold wind howls outside, the Rose of Jericho is a personal reminder of winter's eventual passing and the promise of the spring to come.