FLIP: Florida Invasive Plants

Nephrolepis cordifolia

Common Name(s): Tuberous sword fern, Boston fern, erect sword fern, ladder fern


The Tropics

Ecological Impact

Spreads aggressively into the landscape.  Can produce dense crowns of drooping leaves that displaces native ground cover.  Listed as a Category I species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC).


Leaves (fronds) are once pinnate that are up to 3 feet long and 2.8 inches wide.  Forty to one hundred leaflets (pinnae) may be found on each side of the main stalk of the frond with margins slightly or entirely toothed (serrated).  Rhizomes are suberect, with spreading, brown linear scales with hairlike tips; producing small ungerground tubers (Langeland and Burks, 1998). 

Identification Tips

May be confused with a native fern, Nephrolepis exalta, which does not produce tubers and has more sharply pointed leaflet tips.


Spread by natural dispersal of spores and by dumping of yard waste (Langeland and Burks, 1998).


Found throughout the state of Florida, mainly central and southern.

Management Strategies

Do not plant.  Discard plant material with household waste.


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

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Florida Invasive Plants