Invasive Species Profile: Old World Climbing Fern

You know the expression, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, this is true for many of the plant and animal species in the Everglades. It may be beautiful on the outside, but it’s causing the ecosystem it lives in great harm. Invasive species, both animals and plants, can wipe out native species in the Everglades. Researchers and Park officials work to tame and eliminate such species from the Park.

For this article we wanted to focus on the invasive plant species: Old World climbing fern also known as lygodium microphyllum. The Old World climbing fern is native to Africa, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific Islands, and Australia.

This plant has wiry twinning fronds, fern-like, triangular-shape leaflets. The fronds can grow to 90 feet long. Their stems are dark brown. The plant has two types of leaves and one of them has spores that spread in the wind.

This plant grows aggressively and spreads; it dominates native vegetation by forming a dense canopy. It can grow up and over trees, and smother shrubs and trees below it. It keeps other plants from thriving and growing by blocking out nutrients and sunlight. Currently, it has taken over more than 200,000 acres in south Florida. In many places, you can’t even see another plant because of how densely the fern has covered everything around it. The fern’s roots can even change the water flow in the area.

In south Florida and the Everglades, the fern can grow in bald cypress stands, pine flatwoods, wet prairies, saw grass marshes, mangroves, and tree islands.

Fires and this fern don’t go well together. Whether a wildlife or planned burn, these ferns act like a fire and can carry the fire places you don’t want it to go, which means it can kill native trees.

If left alone, this plant could be infesting more than 2 million acres in the years to come.

This plant is federally regulated to keep it from completely overtaking the native plant life. The USDA approved the use of insects to keep the fern contained.

Explore the Everglades by Airboat

The Old World Climbing Fern may look pretty, but it can be lethal for native plants of the Everglades, which we want to keep alive.

If you’re interested in seeing the native and invasive plants covering the Everglades, an airboat tour is a great way to see a vast glimpse of it all. Captain Mitch and his team have years of experience navigating through the wetland, and can point out lots of plant life to you.  To book an airboat trip in the Everglades, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 239-695-3377 or click Everglades airboat tour page.