Old World Climbing Fern

August 2003
Jim Selph - DeSoto County Extension, Director/Livestock Agent

In June at the Florida Cattlemen's Convention, one of the meetings talked about Old World Climbing Fern and the invasive problem that this plant presents to the Florida Cattle Industry. Lygodium microphyllum is a climbing invasive exotic vine in Florida. You can think of it as Florida's Kudzu. But it is not Kudzu. This exotic fern is climbing into trees and shading them out. It has the ability to sprout new growth from anywhere along any climbing leaf. Not only does this dense growth have the ability to shade out trees and other vegetation, it can also become a major fire hazard. Small ground fires are able to reach canopies and kill growing branches.

What is Old World Climbing Fern? Well, it is a fern that has climbing fronds. There is an appearance of a stem, but it is actually a climbing, freely branching, leaf (frond) which can reach lengths of over 100 feet. There are leafy branches off the main stem that are between 2-5 inches in length.

Several ranchers at the FCA Convention attested to the damaging effect this plant is having on pasture and rangeland. As with most Ferns, it reproduces both vegetatively and reproductively by spore production. Once established, the fern is difficult to control. Where to Look: Most likely to occur in central and south Florida. Reported from all counties south of Polk, Sarasota, and in Highlands, Martin and Hillsborough Counties. Because it reproduces by millions of spores spread by wind and other physical carriers, new infestations can arise great distances from existing populations. Most commonly occurs in moist habitats, but also grows in shallow water and dry areas. Cypress wetlands, Everglades tree islands, floodplain, hammocks, roadside ditches and disturbed corridors are common habitats. Young plants are often found on moist portions (moss collars) of tree buttresses.

Just what we need!!! As if Tropical Soda Apple was not bad enough. A part of the world that we live in today allows us to travel throughout the world in a matter of hours. Today as farmers and rancher we have to be much more vigilant in observing our land than our forefathers did. If you think that you have observed the Old World Climbing Fern on your land let your county extension agent know and we will get a positive ID on it for you.

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