What happens when moss dries out? Some species simply go into a waiting game.

KQED's Deep Look zeros in on moss species called resurrection plants. They can dry out for years, even a century, and still unfurl into stunning green life as soon as drops of water hit their surface.

KQED writes, "When there’s no rain, Tortula mosses dry out completely and stop photosynthesizing. That is, they stop using carbon dioxide and the light of the sun to grow. They’re virtually dead, reduced to a pile of chemicals, and can stay that way for years. Researchers have found dry, 100-year-old moss samples in a museum that came back to life when water was added."

The mosses are of particular interest to researchers looking for solutions in drought-stricken areas. As the world braces for longer, harsher dry periods and less available fresh water, scientists are hoping to discover the secrets held within the genes of the moss and apply what they learn to other crops to make them drought-tolerant.

So far, Mel Oliver, a research geneticist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Missouri, Columbia, has pinpointed nearly 80 genes from Tortula that could be candidates for modifying crops to survive periods of drought.

Check out what it looks like when these mosses spring back to life:

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Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

Resurrection plants burst back to life with just a few drops of water
This moss, virtually dead for decades, reawakens with water and could hold clues to creating drought-tolerant crops.