Lygodium — Old World Climbing Fern

Stopping the Spread in Central Florida

Working with partners to stop the spread of invasive species.

Old World climbing fern is a fern with climbing fronds. Dense growth of the plant can also be a fire hazard, enabling small ground fires to reach into tree canopies.

The Conservancy has mobilized and leads a Florida partnership that addresses a most serious problem: the northward spread of Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum.) Central Florida Lygodium Strategy (CFLS) is “drawing a line on the vine” across central Florida, from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Ocean.

What’s so Bad About Old World Climbing Fern?

It is considered the greatest threat of Florida’s many invasive, non-native plants. It has nearly overwhelmed parts of south Florida and is quickly spreading north. The fern grows fronds up to 125 feet long. It spreads easily, grows quickly, suffocates native habitats and carries hot fire into treetops and wetlands where fire doesn’t belong.

Old World climbing fern smothers everything in its path – even pine, oak and cypress trees – and rare plants such as Celestial lily, Hartwrightia, and Florida willow. It destroys habitat for many animals, including Florida black bear, the endangered wood stork and Sherman’s fox squirrel.

The Nature Conservancy Offers Assistance to Landowners

If you live in or north of northern Hillsborough, northern Polk, Orange or Volusia Counties and suspect that Old World climbing fern is infesting your property, e-mail Cheryl Millett at or call (863) 635-7506 x 205. We may be able to treat it for you.

CLFS Action Plan

Old World climbing fern acknowledges no boundary or fence line, so neither does the CFLS. It works with land owners and managers to coordinate quick and effective treatments as new infestations of the fern appear on both public and private properties along the northern line of infestation. 

CFLS uses air and ground surveys to map and assess climbing fern distribution. It also educates the public how to identify and control the weed. 

CFLS has worked with dozens of partners, treated Old World climbing fern on thousands of acres, searched for the fern on millions of acres, and removed or reduced the potential for spore dispersal into dozens of conservation lands.

Partners Make Perfect

A strong group of partners from federal, state, local and private organizations participate in CFLS prioritizing and steering committee meetings, and sometimes directly facilitate on-the-ground efforts. 

The Conservancy’s invasive species strategy is based on decades of experience and science-based leadership. The CFLS partnership is a fine example of how this strategy can lead to better management practices and strong public policies across Florida.

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