Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

Know Your Invasives: Old-World Climbing Fern

April 27, 2021
Old-world climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum) is an invasive exotic plant species distributed throughout much of South and Central Florida. Its natural distribution ranges from tropical areas of the African and Asian continents to the Pacific Islands.
The fern escaped cultivation in or around Martin County, Fla., circa 1965. Lygodium readily spreads via rhizomes and wind-driven spores. To date, only a few individual specimens have been documented and removed on Sanibel; however, this invasive plant has impacted hundreds of thousands of acres of natural ecosystems, rapidly colonizing the diverse habitats of tree islands throughout many of Florida’s wetlands.
To combat this invasion, some agencies are utilizing airborne LiDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) to detect infestations and eradicate them through the aerial application of herbicide. Rapid growth rates and pyrogenic (fire adapted) characteristics allow this plant a competitive edge over native species, engulfing vast areas of critical habitats in a relatively short time frame.
“If left unnoticed or unchecked on Sanibel, the fern could have irreversible and devastating impacts to our natural habitats,” said SCCF Land Steward Victor Young. “SCCF and our partner agencies continue to monitor for infestations throughout the island.”
If you spot this invasive on the islands, email
Photos by UF/IFAS, click here for more photos to help with identification.


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