The Old World climbing fern origins is tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, Melanesia and Australia, and is now an aggressive invasive, non-native vine that is rapidly spreading in Florida. The fern was first found in Martin County in 1965 and now infests more than 200,000 acres in South Florida and spreading into Central Florida. Over time, it is estimated that left unchecked, it could infest more than 2 million acres in South Florida.

The Old World climbing ferns leaves are wining fronds of indeterminate growth to 30 m (90 ft.) long. Leafy branches off the main rachis (constituting the pinnae) once compound, oblong in overall outline, 5-12 cm (2-5 in.) long. Leaflets (pinnules) usually unlobed, stalked, articulate (leaving wiry stalks when detached); leaf-blade tissue usually glabrous below; fertile leaflets of similar size, fringed with tiny lobes of enrolled leaf tissue covering the sporangia along the leaf margin. Its stems are fern with dark brown, wiry rhizomes forming layered mats or canopies over existing vegetation.

The Old World climbing fern is dark brown, wiry rhizomes and climbing, twining fronds to 90 feet long; main rachis (leaf stalk) wiry which are stem-like.  Leafy branches off the main rachis once compound, oblongish in outline, two to five feet in length. Leaflets are usually unlobed, stalked and without hairs. Fertile leaflets are fringed with tiny lobes of enrolled leaf tissue covering the sporangia (spore-containing structures) along the leaf margin.

While it is primarily a weed of public conservation areas, it does infest residential landscapes, horticultural nurseries, rangelands and other managed lands near infested natural vegetation. It has the ability to grow up and over trees and shrubs, forming dense horizontal canopies covering whole communities of plants and reducing native plant diversity. The Old World climbing fern can grow in pine flatwoods, wet prairies, sawgrass marshes, mangrove communities, bald cypress stands and Everglades tree islands. Many of the Everglades tree islands are so completely blanketed by the fern that it is not possible to see trees and other vegetation beneath the canopy. One management problem with the fern is it can serve as a ladder during prescribed burns carrying the fire into the nearby tree canopies killing native trees. As well, breaking free and spreading fire to surrounding areas.

Cutting the vines will result in the death of the vines above the cut location, but will not kill the lower portion of the plant. Regrowth occurs after hand-pulling or burning and flooding does not kill established vines. Control requires the application of a herbicide.

 

Miami Beach

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