FLIP: Florida Invasive Plants

Lygodium microphyllum

Common Name(s): Old World climbing fern, small-leaf climbing fern


Australia, Africa to Southeast Asia, and South Pacific islands

Ecological Impact

Forms a blanket of growth which when caught on fire, spreads rapidly, resulting in the loss of canopy trees and native bromeliads.  Can climb over sawgrass in standing water.  Listed as a Category I invasive species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC).


A climbing fern with dark brown rhizomes that can grow up to 90 feet long.   The main rachis is wiry and stemlike.  Branches contain leaves are that are once compound and oblong in shape.  There are 2 kinds of leaflets on the climbing frond (leaf):  one has a simple (unlobed) outline and the other has sporangia along its margin (Langeland and Burks, 1998).

Identification Tips

Resembles Japanese climbing fern (Lygodium japonicum) whose pinnae are often twice compound.  


Introduced to Florida in the early 1990s.

Florida Range

Found throughout the state of  Florida, including the Keys.

Prevention/Management Strategies

For small vines, pull out by the roots and discard the plant material in tightly sealed bags along with household waste.  Large patches will need to be cut and disposed of.  When in contact with this fern, change out of clothing immediately and bag until clothing can be washed.  Remove all fern material from shoes and equipment used. 

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. The Nature Conservancy may be able to treat it for you.


Most photos courtesy of the Atlas of Florida Plants; click for additional plant details.

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Florida Invasive Plants