Resurrecting 45 Roses of Jericho with an Arduino Mega

Selaginella lepidophylla is a species of plant in the spikemoss family (Selaginellaceae) native to the Chihuahuan Desert region. Often referred to as the Rose of Jericho, the plant is renowned for its ability to survive almost complete desiccation (extreme dryness), with stems that curl into a tight ball and uncurl when exposed to moisture.

Unfortunately, most of us probably aren’t in a position to drop everything and go for a cruise along the US-Mexican border to visit the plant in its natural habitat. So that is why we are giving props to Italian artist Daniela Di Maro and the Software Architecture Laboratory of Milan for creating “Anastatica sensibile,” an installation dedicated to studying natural processes as a medium for interactivity.

The installation is built around the stalwart Selaginella lepidophylla, with an interactive irrigation system controlled by an Arduino Mega (Atmel ATmega1280) that monitors the number of people visiting the exhibit.

“When the number significantly increases, one plant is randomly selected: the LED of the selected plant blinks for ten seconds,” a post on the Software Architecture Laboratory of Milan explained.

“When a plant has been selected for a certain number of times, the digital system irrigates the plant and its LED is turned on. An irrigated plant is excluded by the selection process for about four days, a time sufficient for the plant to regenerate itself and then to return in the ‘closed’ state because of the absence of water.”

As the official Arduino blog reports, the irrigation system comprises two electronic control units tasked with managing 45 LEDs and 44 electro-valves. Each is governed by an Arduino Mega (Atmel ATmega1280) microcontroller, along with with a customized Printed Circuit Board (PCB).

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