Climbing Fern - Japanese Climbing Fern - Vine-Like Fern
Lygodium japonicum - (Thunb ex Murr) Swartz
Lygodaceae (Climbing Fern) Family

This weedy fern is an introduction from Asia that has become well established along roadsides and woodland borders throughout the region. It is also known in adjacent states but less frequent. The native variety of this fern, L. palmatum, is not as widespread as the Asian variety.

The vines of the climbing fern have leaves that grow year-round and may reach lengths of 90 feet or more given ideal growing conditions. The palm-like leaves have a toothed margin.

The flowering are fertile pinnules contracted in shape, with two rows of spores on the margins. The spores are carried long distances by wind, and transportation equipment.

Climbing Fern is well established across the Coastal Plain and has become so well established that conventional wisdom held that it was necessary to move the fern in sods to be successful with the transplant. This has proved not to be the case as even small pieces of the root form new plants.

The native species of climbing fern, palmatum, also known as American Climbing Fern and Hartford Fern, was once thought to be nearly extinct, but a large supply was found in time to save it from being plowed under by a farmer. There seems to be no further danger of losing this unique species. It grows in thickets or pastures where it can find other shrubs on which to climb. The sterile fronds, which are first to come up in the spring, attain a height of only a few inches, but in mid-summer the fertile fronds, which are infinitely more graceful, grow as tall as 3 to 4 feet.

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