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Published on May 4, 2021

Exotic - To Be... Old World Climbing Fern

Introduced by accident just a few counties south of us in 1965, Old World Climbing Fern now infests more than 200,000 acres in South and Central Florida. This plant moves aggressively through ecosystems. As a fern it reproduces by spores that are carried by wind and fire to new areas, sprouting in wetlands like cypress stands, hydric hardwood hammocks and hydric flatwoods. Here in Indian River County, we find Old World (and even Japanese) Climbing Fern in disturbed areas like ditches, but also in native habitats and conservation areas. You may have noticed this fern climbing over trees and blanketing the landscape. The plant can be extremely hazardous as it climbs into the canopy choking out native vegetation – it is also extremely flammable which can cause damage during wildfires and prescribed fires carrying flames high in the canopy top – fire creates an even bigger problem when millions of spores are released to float through the wind and land in new areas, creating even more infestations.