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Abstract

In his article "A Comparative Literary History of Resurrection Plants" John Charles Ryan assembles a comparative history of resurrection plants through textual analysis of early botanical commentaries, herbal references, prose, poetry, and other sources. Resurrection plants include a diverse range of botanical species, typically of arid regions, that appear to come back to life after complete desiccation. Historical and contemporary observers—from sixteenth-century herbalist John Gerard to contemporary Australian poet John Kinsella—have expressed an abiding fascination for resurrection plants' capacity to survive harsh environmental conditions. The plants court their own deaths by paring down—then restoring—physiological processes in relation to shifting ecological circumstances. While researchers over the years have attempted to reveal the mechanisms involved, the uncanny adaptations of resurrection plants remain a wonder and source of inspiration for scientists, humanists, and artists alike. Drawing from recent concepts in the field of "critical plant studies," this article concludes by asserting that listening to the lessons of plants is essential to reimagining an ethical and sustainable future. In the present era of rapid species loss worldwide, resurrection plants offer messages of hope and renewal to societies struggling to devise ways to live sustainably with the biosphere.