Positive root pressure is critical for whole-plant desiccation recovery in two species of terrestrial resurrection ferns

Helen I. Holmlund, Stephen D. Davis, Frank W. Ewers, Natalie M. Aguirre, Gerard Sapes, Anna Sala, Jarmila Pittermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Desiccation-tolerant (DT) organisms can lose nearly all their water without dying. Desiccation tolerance allows organisms to survive in a nearly completely dehydrated, dormant state. At the cellular level, sugars and proteins stabilize cellular components and protect them from oxidative damage. However, there are few studies of the dynamics and drivers of whole-plant recovery in vascular DT plants. In vascular DT plants, whole-plant desiccation recovery (resurrection) depends not only on cellular rehydration, but also on the recovery of organs with unequal access to water. In this study, in situ natural and artificial irrigation experiments revealed the dynamics of desiccation recovery in two DT fern species. Organ-specific irrigation experiments revealed that the entire plant resurrected when water was supplied to roots, but leaf hydration alone (foliar water uptake) was insufficient to rehydrate the stele and roots. In both species, pressure applied to petioles of excised desiccated fronds resurrected distal leaf tissue, while capillarity alone was insufficient to resurrect distal pinnules. Upon rehydration, sucrose levels in the rhizome and stele dropped dramatically as starch levels rose, consistent with the role of accumulated sucrose as a desiccation protectant. These findings provide insight into traits that facilitate desiccation recovery in dryland ferns associated with chaparral vegetation of southern California.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1139-1150
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 23 2020


  • Drought
  • F /F
  • Pellaea andromedifolia
  • Pentagramma triangularis
  • foliar water uptake
  • non-structural carbohydrates
  • plant rehydration


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