Practical information to identify and manage non-native, invasive plants and animals
The Quiet Invasion:
A Guide to Invasive Species of the Galveston Bay Area
Japanese climbing fern
Lygodium japonicum

USDA Symbol:LYJA
ITIS TSN:17983
Presence:Current Invaders
Habitat:Terrestrial
Native Range:Japan west to the Himalayas
Toxic Characteristics
This species is not known to be toxic.
Geographic Distribution
Located in the Southeastern U.S., from the Carolinas south to Florida, along the Gulf Coast to Texas and Arkansas. Isolated populations exist in the Lower Galveston Bay watershed in Harris and Liberty counties.
Introduction Pathways
First discovered in Georgia in the early 1900s; later spread via cultivation as an ornamental climbing plant.
Specific Primary Habitats
Needs light to heavy shade and moist, well-drained soils. Found in residential areas, often along fence lines and hedges. Will spread into ditches, as well as moist woodlands.
Identifying Characteristics
Fronds (fern leaves) take the appearance of a long, freely branching green to brownish-red stem. True stems are underground rhizomes. Leaflets are green, opposite, highly lobed, and branch terminally off small stalks. Leaflets bearing spores underneath have curled margins; sterile leaflets are flat at the marginches Terminal leaflets are usually very long and triangular. No flowers exist.
Reproduction Characteristics
Produces alternating generations of vegetative and reproductive plants. The reproductive generation is rarely visible, and consists of smaller leaflets with sporangia along the undersides of the margin. Spores are wind- as well as equipment-dispersed.
Growth Characteristics
Japanese climbing fern is a perennial vine-like fern that repeatedly grows back from rhizomes. It can reach lengths of 90 feet.
Ecological, Economic, or Social Impact
This vine-like fern, once established, and if left uncontrolled, will shade out entire trees. Also produces a thick ground cover preventing native seed germination.
Control
Young plants should be pulled by hand. Foliar applications of glyphosate herbicide have been effective. Extremely large infestations should be cut or mowed, applying herbicide to new growth.
General Notes
Easily confused with Lygodium microphyllum, another invasive climbing fern.

Native Species Alternatives
Below is a list of alternative plants that are native to the area:
  • Southern maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris)
  • Turks' cap (Malvaviscus arboreus)
  • American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
This species belongs to the following lists:
Images
To view a larger version of an image, click on the thumbnail.
The japanese climbing fern growing from a pine straw bale. Photo courtesy of Dennis Teague, U.S. Air Force, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1197026.
The japanese climbing fern growing from a pine straw bale. Photo courtesy of Dennis Teague, U.S. Air Force, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1197026.
Pine forest understory infestation of the japanese climbing fern and control (glyphosate). Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1264054.
Pine forest understory infestation of the japanese climbing fern and control (glyphosate). Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1264054.
Young Japanese climbing fern climbing up a tree. Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1264066.
Young Japanese climbing fern climbing up a tree. Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1264066.
Close-up of leaves/fronds of the japanese climbing fern. Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1342031.
Close-up of leaves/fronds of the japanese climbing fern. Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1342031.
A spore-producing frond of the japanese climbing fern. Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1346033.
A spore-producing frond of the japanese climbing fern. Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1346033.
A young japanese climbing fern. Photo courtesy of Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 2307221.
A young japanese climbing fern. Photo courtesy of Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 2307221.
Tangled mass of the japanese climbing fern. Photo courtesy of James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 2307222.
Tangled mass of the japanese climbing fern. Photo courtesy of James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 2307222.
Infestation of the japanese climbing fern smothering entire tree. Photo courtesy of James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 2307225.
Infestation of the japanese climbing fern smothering entire tree. Photo courtesy of James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 2307225.
Page Updated/Reviewed: 07/14/2010 8:33 AM
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