Jill Farrant | Plant Stress Lab

Myrothamnus flabellifolia: the resurrection bush

The resurrection bush (opstandingsplant in Afrikaans, uvukakwabafile in isiZulu and umazifisi in Ndebele), Myrothamnus flabellifolia, occurs naturally in the northern half of South Africa (Limpopo, North-West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal), as well as in other parts of southern Africa (Namibia, Kenya and Malawi). It is desiccation tolerant in that it can lose up to 95% of its cellular water and exist in an air-dry state until water is once again available. Upon rehydration, the cellular metabolism returns to normal and the dry leaves once again become green and begin photosynthesizing. Although desiccation tolerance is common in seeds, it is an extremely rare phenomenon in vegetative plant tissues and only a handful of plants have been found to have evolved this ability. Myrothamnus has been found to survive for at least 3 years in the dry state. Pictured is a dry plant (left) and Prof. Jill Farrant in the field in Limpopo with a hydrated plant (right).  

The Plant Stress Laboratory, headed by Prof. Farrant, is conducting research into the mechanisms which allow plants to tolerate extreme water loss with the view of introducing such characteristics into crops for improved drought tolerance and ultimately food security in the face of climate change. 

Watch as this dry plant comes back to life!