When I was young I had two types of friends. The first type of friend was genuinely nice all of the time, would go out of their way to share snacks, chalk and giggles. The other type was a bit sinister; this type of friend was only nice when grown-ups were around. As soon as the adults left the room, they turned into little bullies, punching and kicking, knocking the wind out of the friendship. I reminisce about this now because of a little fern that popped up next to one of my favorite plants. It was so cute, and I thought it so nice that my plant had a little buddy to hang out with. But this little fern turned out to be the sinister type of friend that strangled my plant when my back was turned.
Fern peeking out of flower pot.
According to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), there are a lot of invasive plants that tend to choke out the native beauties in Florida. However, one that scares people and gets them shaking in their boots is the Old World climbing fern. On a flight over the Everglades, a member of the National Park Service described what he saw as a lime-green cancer that was spreading and ready to destroy an ecosystem! This is some serious stuff.
The NPCA claims that the climbing fern is deadly, a villain in the plant world. It is dangerous because it actually creates a blanket over vegetation, literally choking the native species and not allowing them to regenerate. The stems can get as long as 80 feet and wrap themselves around native trees. It actually forms a dense mass up to two or three feet in thickness. The interesting thing about this is that fire uses the climbing fern as a type of trail up to the canopy of trees, helping to destroy native forests.
Unfortunately this type of fern has been accounted for in all counties south of Sarasota on both sides of Florida. As of now, this species ranges from central to south Florida. There are some breakthroughs in control in the shape of a winged savior—a moth. The use of a type of moth is being tested to see if it can eradicate the problem and help save our native habitats from being destroyed.
I don’t believe that the fern buddy I have in my potted plant is an Old World climbing fern, just a little seed that needed a home. After careful consideration, the two plants were transferred to a larger pot and now live in horticulture harmony in my backyard.
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