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Japanese Climbing Fern: Top Weed for Garden and Home Damage in Florida

Learn about how to protect your Florida home and foundation.

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The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has produced a handy Field Guide to Terrestrial Noxious Weeds. It lists 38 species ranging from vines to herbs and woody plants to grasses. The Japanese climbing fern, Lygodium japonica, is one of only two ferns on the list.

What Is the Japanese Climbing Fern?

The Japanese climbing fern infests 57 counties out of the total 67 counties in Florida. It’s also present across the U.S. Gulf Coast.

It has very long, climbing, twining fronds that quickly become a tangled mass over and into shrubs, trees, plants, and even as ground cover. Stems can grow up to 90 feet long and can cover other plants with up to a 10-foot-thick mat.

It spreads through underground stems and reproduces much more broadly through the release of airborne spores. Spores mature from July to December, but in South Florida, they mature all year round. Each plant releases thousands of spores that are carried by wind, animals, equipment, and your clothing.

How To Identify the Japanese Climbing Fern

The stems are reddish brown, orange, or black wiry vines. The leaves are green, triangular, ranging from three to six inches long and three inches wide, with hairs on the underside. There are no flowers, but the fronds bear sporangia which release airborne spores.

The underground stems form a mat roughly one inch deep and send out roots. They can spread and form additional plants. They can also add layers of rhizomes, forming a multilayer mat both below and above ground.

The vines grow over the top of plants, shrubs, and trees. They also quickly wind their way into the midst of other plants, making them very difficult to remove without harming the rest of your garden.

Damage From Japanese Climbing Fern

As noted above, the vines can quickly overwhelm gardens, lawns, shrubs, and even trees. As with any roots, they can also find their way into drainpipes, clogging them and opening up cracks.

They can also find their way to your home, growing up the side, onto the roof, into downspouts, and even getting into any cracks in the foundation walls and crawl space

There’s a further economic cost to remove the weed and to follow up when it regrows. The eradication cost is estimated at $135 to $500 per acre to as much as $1,520 per acre in remote locations. 

There’s also a potential impact on the resale value of your home.

How To Protect Your Home

By far the best approach is to watch for the weed’s appearance in your garden. When it’s found early, it wouldn’t have had the time needed to grow into and onto your other plants. 

While it might be tempting at that stage to merely pull up the weed, portions of the underground stem may remain in place, allowing a quick regrowth. It’s best to dig out the underground roots and rhizomes to fully remove the weed.

Herbicides can help eradicate the plant as well. However, you’ll need to be very careful that you don’t also kill the neighboring plants.

Of course, you can also consult an expert in the eradication of the weed to include removal without spreading it throughout your garden.

Make sure to watch for tree root damage to your home as well. Remove the trees and their roots when they threaten your home’s foundation.

We Can Help

We’ve helped homeowners with foundation damage from weeds, plants, trees, weather events, and shifting soil from our office in Orlando throughout the surrounding area.

If you find Japanese climbing fern or other invasive weeds on your property, contact the professionals at Alpha Foundations for a free inspection to ensure the weed has not caused damage to your home. 

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