Eastern Forest Threat Center - Japanese Climbing Fern

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Fertile Japanese climbing fern fronds

Fertile Japanese climbing fern fronds

Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org

Japanese Climbing Fern
Lygodium japonicum

Japanese climbing fern is native to Asia and tropical Australia. It was introduced into the U.S. from Japan in the 1930s as an ornamental that is still being spread by unsuspecting gardeners.

Keywords: Lygodiaceae, perennial, climbing, twining, wiry vine, lacy leaves, fronds, sporangia, wind dispersed spores, rhizomes, trellis

Distribution Map Distribution Source Image

Threat Description

Japanese climbing fern is a perennial, climbing and twining viney fern that can grow to 90 ft. long. Its orange to black, wiry vines arise as branches from underground, widely creeping rhizomes. Lacy, finely divided leaves (fronds) are opposite on the vine, compound once- or twice-divided, generally triangular in outline, and 3 to 6 in. long and 2 to 3 in. wide. Fronds are light green turning dark to tan brown and persisting in winter, though some remain green in Florida and sheltered places farther north. Fertile fronds bear sporangia in double rows under the margins, and tiny spores are rapidly wind dispersed. Japanese climbing fern occurs along highway rights-of-way, especially under and around bridges, invading into open forests, forest road edges, and stream and swamp margins. It is scattered in open timber stands and plantations, but can increase in cover to form mats, smothering shrubs and trees. It dies back in late winter, but dead vines provide a trellis for reestablishment.