Jericho rose: extreme survival in the desert

Today we have a truly special plant. It is the Rose of Jericho ( Anastatica hierochuntica ).

It is not really well known among ornamentals, but it has some really curious properties that have made it famous throughout history.

Known in English as Resurrection plant (plant of the resurrection) Do you want to see how it behaves to have such a name?

STRATEGIES  OF THE ROSE OF JERICHO

The plant species that survive in arid and desert climates have the peculiarity of developing unique physiological systems .

Cacti store as much water as possible. The spines are an evolution of millions of years from the leaves to avoid an excessive level of evapotranspiration in addition to supplying a defensive system .

Succulents such as agaves or Aloe vera have fleshy structures where they store large reserves of water in the form of mucilage and other gels.

There are endless mechanisms, but none like that of the Rose of Jericho.

The rose of Jericho has the ability to dry out but not die completely, although we would have to define very well in this case, what it means to die for a plant. The rose of Jericho does not fall within the definition. Let’s say you get a kind of mechanical latency .

Before complete irretrievable wilting, the Rose of Jericho transforms to ensure the survival of the species.

SURVIVAL MECHANISM OF THE ROSE OF JERICHO

When this desert plant dries, its branches fold towards the center, forming a more or less spherical structure. Its roots are reduced to the minimum expression. It uproots by a logical mechanism in a desert. You know you won’t find water if you stay where you are.

By uprooting and rolling into a ball, with enough wind, it is able to lift itself off the ground and roll up and down the dune. This allows it, at the mercy of the winds, to fall in different places. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have water.

This plant can be thus for tens of years keeping the viable seed hundreds of years, until falling in a place with water.

It is at this precise moment, is when the “miracle happens.” Later we will see that it is not such a miracle.

It has its physiological explanation. If it finds water, in a few hours the parched ball of branches begins to open. The new shape prevents being blown away again by the wind. Two things can happen at this point:

  • The plant remains like this until the water in the substrate dries up again. In this case, the plant will close again, again acquiring the shape of a ball, waiting for the wind to carry it to another place.
  • It starts to rain. If this happens, the water droplets hit the structures containing the seeds, releasing them. In a few hours, new shoots emerge . With favorable conditions, a new Jericho rose will be born. Otherwise, that outbreak will die without remedy.

JERICHO ROSE SEED DISPERSAL SYSTEM

Do you remember the types of seed dispersal that are studied in high school? If not, let’s do a little review:

  • Autocoria: It is the plant itself that uses its own structures to spread. Invasive plants often have this type of dispersal. The strawberries with their stolons are a species that “practice” the autocoria.
  • Baricoria: In this case it is the fruit that falls by weight. Fruit trees clearly use this system. A chestnut, a peach …
  • Zoocoria: In this case, the seeds use the animals to spread, sticking to the hair of the animals, or to your socks and clothes when you go for a walk in the bush. It sure has happened to you more than once and twice.
  • Anemocoria: In this case, the wind is the agent that helps dispersion . How many times have you blown away a grandfather (dandelion) scattering the seeds everywhere. The maple seed is another great example of this system.
  • Hydrochory: Is water the seeds tranpsorta agent, either because float, either because the river or the sea or the drag rain itself.

AFTER THIS REVIEW, WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU THINK THE ROSE OF JERICHO USES?

The rose of Jericho does not settle for just one. Use Anemocoria and a type of hydrochoria . The first to move itself with all its seeds inside the ball that it forms when it dries. Be careful not to confuse this plant with the famous wheeler from western movies.

They are two different species. Hydrochoria uses it when it rains to disperse the seeds. In the slow motion of the video below it looks perfectly.

The force of the raindrops hit is what releases the seeds. Specifically, it is called ombrohydrochoria.

It is undoubtedly one of the most interesting mechanisms that a plant species has developed to survive in such extreme habitats as the desert or the steppes. It is very reminiscent of the complex mechanism of some carnivorous plants . 

The process itself follows an apparently simple logical sequence that, surely, has taken thousands of years to develop from an evolutionary point of view. In a simple way it would be:

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    • If there is water then it grows, develops as an individual and “prepares” seeds waiting for rain.
    • If it rains   then the seeds are doubly insured. There is water and it also rains, so there are possibilities of spreading the species.
    • If it does not rain  then the seeds remain in the plant, it continues to develop until the reserves are exhausted (pond, wet area etc.) waiting for it to dry out.
    • If there is no water   It adopts the shape of a ball, it closes waiting for the wind to take it to another place.

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FREQUENT INTERNET CONFUSION ABOUT THE ROSE OF JERICHO

The main error or confusion that we find on the Internet is that a fern is also commonly called that, which does have the ability to resuscitate if it enters conditions of extreme drought: a process known as anhydrobiosis.

With which it is often confused, it is actually called Selaginella lepidophylla , native to the Chihuahuan desert, Mexico. Even Wikipedia itself warns of the confusion and yet, in the same entry, videos and photos of the two species coexist, a situation not very understandable, since they have nothing to do with their plant morphology, they do not even share a habitat.

And there are countless websites that talk about its magical and therapeutic properties (which we put in serious doubt) in which they mix the photos of the two without shame or the slightest attention. One is from the Brassicaceae family . The other is a poikilohydric fern that reproduces by spores (does not flower).

I invite you to put Rose of Jericho in Google and see the number of pages that mix one and another telling you a thousand stories, legends and other magical properties. Not without first seeing the differences in the following photos. Please! I need to know which one is magic! ;-P

Rose of Jericho (Anastatica hierochuntica)

elaginella lepidophylla . With which it is often confused because it has the same common name.

Let us remember the true Rose of Jericho does not rise as such. It does not turn green. Simply unfold the dry branches releasing the seeds in case of rain as explained above. From a biological point of view, the plant is dead, so how is it able to open in the presence of water? Well, in short, it has to do with the structural difference in the stem at the cellular level .

As an article from the botany department of Cairo University says, which studies in depth the mechanism of this plant:

The study species, Anastatica hierochuntica, differs from other “resurrection plants” in that the processes of winding and unwinding of its skeletons are purely mechanical. There is no desiccation of the cellular constituents in the dry state and then recovery of vital processes after dehydration.

If you are interested in delving further, here is the link to the scientific article on the rose of Jericho.

And here is yet another video that shows what the Rose of Jericho really looks like when it is placed in water.

WE DON’T HAVE TO LEAVE THE ROSE OF JERICHO DRY

Everything seen so far results in the natural propagation and dispersal of this incredible desert plant. However, in its vegetative state it is a very interesting plant to have in our xerophytic garden.

With moderate to low waterings we can make the plant grow and keep it displayed with a beautiful green.

You will have to watch that it does not become a dry ball because it will roll out of your garden!

Welcome to The GardenPure! My name is Ryan Heagle, and I’m the founder of The GardenPure, I spent the first part of my adult life teaching and then living in Australia in various business ventures, the first of which was a business devoted to the sale of house plants.  I am now a full time blogger. I am a self taught gardener.

Ryan Heagle

Welcome to The GardenPure! My name is Ryan Heagle, and I’m the founder of The GardenPure, I spent the first part of my adult life teaching and then living in Australia in various business ventures, the first of which was a business devoted to the sale of house plants.  I am now a full time blogger. I am a self taught gardener.

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