Resurrection Bush (or Myro to the moon?)

The resurrection Bush or Myrothamnus flabellifolia, is a common plant in the Waterberg with remarkable attributes. Professor Jill Farrant grew up in the Waterberg and devoted her life studying these unique plants.  She is the world’s leading expert on them and is currently DSI-NRF Research Chair, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Myrothamnus flabellifolia (Myro), seen in the picture below, is commonly called the resurrection bush because of its remarkable abilities to green up overnight after months of no rain during which it appears to dry up and die.  This iconic plant is one of only 240 flowering plants in the world that can survive loss of 95% of their cellular water (desiccate) and thus apparently “resurrect” after rain.

Myro is iconic in that it is an ancient species which produces a vast array of phytochemicals during desiccation that protect it from the harsh environments in which it lives. These are used in traditional medicine and its desiccated leaves are widely used as a tea in areas where it grows.  These have been characterized and have shown that they include, inter alia, some of the most powerful antioxidants tested to date.

What has all of this got to do with Myro going to the moon?  The privately owned company Space IL aims to place a lander on the moon in December 2024/Jan 2025.  They offered a free pay load to any group who could demonstrate real value to humanity.   Jill was asked to join Lunaria One, an international consortium of engineers, space professionals and biologists, in a bid to demonstrate germination of seeds and the resurrection phenomenon on the surface of the moon.   She won the bid, not only because of the concept, but because of the global free educational outreach we will be providing (see ALEPH-1 (lunaria.one)).   Why might this work?  To survive the extreme forces associated with exposure to the moon’s surface, an organism needs to be dry, with the capacity for life when water is added.  Why Myro?  For all the reasons outlined above and because it is the most photogenic of the resurrection plants she works on.

A word of caution.  Her aim is to educate to conserve this species, rather than promote a desire to over harvest it.  She is working on developing a sustainable harvesting strategy, in a campaign she dubs “Save the Myro”, but this is going to take time.  Please help us in this mission.

Interested parties can obtain more information by contacting:

Professor Jill Farrant

Email: Jill.farrant@ust.ac.za.