Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

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Lygodium microphyllum
(old world climbing fern)

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Datasheet

Lygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 24 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Lygodium microphyllum
  • Preferred Common Name
  • old world climbing fern
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Pteridophyta
  •       Class: Filicopsida
  •         Family: Schizaeaceae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • L. microphyllum is a species of climbing fern native to large parts of tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia and Oceania. This species was originally introduced into the USA for ornamental purposes in the mid-1...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Lygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); infestation. Entomologist, Robert Pemberton, observes invasive old world climbing fern overtaking cypress trees in southern Florida. Florida, USA.
TitleInfestation
CaptionLygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); infestation. Entomologist, Robert Pemberton, observes invasive old world climbing fern overtaking cypress trees in southern Florida. Florida, USA.
Copyright©Peggy Greb/USDA Agricultural Research Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Lygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); infestation. Entomologist, Robert Pemberton, observes invasive old world climbing fern overtaking cypress trees in southern Florida. Florida, USA.
InfestationLygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); infestation. Entomologist, Robert Pemberton, observes invasive old world climbing fern overtaking cypress trees in southern Florida. Florida, USA.©Peggy Greb/USDA Agricultural Research Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Lygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); habit. In the Florida Everglades NP, old world climbing fern engulfs a tree island. Florisa, USA.
TitleHabit
CaptionLygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); habit. In the Florida Everglades NP, old world climbing fern engulfs a tree island. Florisa, USA.
Copyright©Peggy Greb/USDA Agricultural Research Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Lygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); habit. In the Florida Everglades NP, old world climbing fern engulfs a tree island. Florisa, USA.
HabitLygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); habit. In the Florida Everglades NP, old world climbing fern engulfs a tree island. Florisa, USA.©Peggy Greb/USDA Agricultural Research Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Lygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); (a) spore-bearing leaflets of old world climbing fern. Some leaflets produce spores, others don't (b). Spores can be carried by the wind to start new infestations. USA.
TitleLeaflets
CaptionLygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); (a) spore-bearing leaflets of old world climbing fern. Some leaflets produce spores, others don't (b). Spores can be carried by the wind to start new infestations. USA.
Copyright©Peggy Greb/USDA Agricultural Research Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Lygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); (a) spore-bearing leaflets of old world climbing fern. Some leaflets produce spores, others don't (b). Spores can be carried by the wind to start new infestations. USA.
LeafletsLygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); (a) spore-bearing leaflets of old world climbing fern. Some leaflets produce spores, others don't (b). Spores can be carried by the wind to start new infestations. USA.©Peggy Greb/USDA Agricultural Research Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Lygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); foliage, fertile frond. USA.
TitleFertile frond
CaptionLygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); foliage, fertile frond. USA.
Copyright©Amy Ferriter/State of Idaho/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Lygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); foliage, fertile frond. USA.
Fertile frondLygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern); foliage, fertile frond. USA.©Amy Ferriter/State of Idaho/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Lygodium microphyllum (Cav.) R. Br.

Preferred Common Name

  • old world climbing fern

Other Scientific Names

  • Lygodium scandens var. intermedium Ces.
  • Lygodium scandens var. microphyllum (Cav.) Luerss.
  • Ophioglossum filiforme Roxb.
  • Ugena microphylla Cav.

International Common Names

  • English: climbing maidenhair; climbing maidenhair fern; small-leaf climbing fern; snake fern

Summary of Invasiveness

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L. microphyllum is a species of climbing fern native to large parts of tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia and Oceania. This species was originally introduced into the USA for ornamental purposes in the mid-1900s. However, it has aggressively invaded forest dominated wetlands, notably in southern and central Florida, USA where it is one of the most important invasive species. This climbing fern causes significant ecological impacts, forming thick mats which climb over and smother undergrowth, shrubs and even tall trees and modify fire regimes so that ground fires are carried into the forest canopy.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Pteridophyta
  •             Class: Filicopsida
  •                 Family: Schizaeaceae
  •                     Genus: Lygodium
  •                         Species: Lygodium microphyllum

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The exact number of species in the genus Lygodium is unclear but is believed to contain around 26 species distributed through the tropical regions of the world (Garrison Hanks, 1998). A total of six species is noted by USDA-ARS (2015); L. cubense, L. flexuosum, L. japonicum,L. microphyllum, L. palmatum, and L. volubile. However, other authorities acknowledge the existence of more species, reflected in those listed by The Plant List (2013), which contains these and 14 more, i.e. 20 accepted species in total.

Lygodium is now the only genus in the family Lygodiaceae which previously contained six (The Plant List, 2015) or ten (USDA-ARS, 2015) genera, each later brought into synonymy with Lygodium.

A molecular phylogeny of the genus was conducted by Madeira et al. (2008) to determine the relationship of L. microphyllum to other species of Lygodium using chloroplast DNA. As a result, three major clades were identified, the most basal one containing L. palmatum and L. articulatum, a second containing L. microphyllum and L. reticulatum and a third comprising the other species examined, with L. microphyllum appearing at the distal end of a long branch, equidistant from most other species (Madeira et al., 2008).

Description

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L. microphyllum is a climbing fern, with long-creeping stems. Leaves to ca. 10-15 mm on petioles borne 2-5 mm apart, 7-25 cm long, with sterile and fertile pinnae. Sterile pinnae on 0.5-1.5 cm stalks, oblong, 1-pinnate, 5-12 × 3-6 cm; ultimate segments triangular-lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate, truncate to shallowly cordate or somewhat auriculate proximally, usually not lobed, but if lobed, lobes rounded at apex and not directed toward leaf apex; segment apex rounded-acute to obtuse; segments articulate to petiolules, leaving wiry stalks when detached; blade tissue glabrous abaxially. Fertile pinnae on 0.5-1.0 cm stalks, oblong, 1-pinnate, 3-14 × 2.5-6 cm; ultimate segments ovate to lanceolate-oblong, fringed with fertile lobes, otherwise similar to sterile segments (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2015).

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated
Vine / climber

Distribution

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L. microphyllum has a very broad native range, including large parts of tropical Africa, from Senegal to South Africa, throughout West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and southern Africa. It is also native to south, south-east and east Asia, from southern Japan and China, throughout Indonesia and the Philippines and is also present in northern and eastern Australia and some western Pacific islands (USDA-ARS, 2015). Further clarity to the exact limits of L. microphyllum in Central and southern Africa, South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific is required as it appears to be extending in its native range.

L. microphyllum has been introduced to the USA where it is a declared noxious weed in Florida (USDA-NRCS, 2015). A number of other records in GBIF (2015) require conformation, e.g. in Réunion, Colombia, Cyprus, Sri Lanka and northern China. It is also reported as present in the Caribbean but the detailed review by Kairo et al. (2003) reveals no presence in the Caribbean for example and it is possible that records in GBIF (2015) may refer to misidentifications of other Lygodium species.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Africa

AngolaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
BurundiPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
CameroonPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
Congo, Republic of thePresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden (2015)
Côte d'IvoirePresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
GabonPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
GhanaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
GuineaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
Guinea-BissauPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
KenyaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
LiberiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
MozambiquePresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
NigeriaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
SenegalPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
Sierra LeonePresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
South AfricaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
TanzaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
UgandaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
ZambiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
ZimbabwePresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)

Asia

BruneiPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
CambodiaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden (2015)
ChinaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
-FujianPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee (2015); USDA-ARS (2015)
-GuangdongPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee (2015); USDA-ARS (2015)
-GuangxiPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
-YunnanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
Hong KongPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee (2015)
IndiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
IndonesiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
JapanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
-Ryukyu IslandsPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
MalaysiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden (2015)
-SabahPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden (2015)
-SarawakPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden (2015)
MyanmarPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
NepalPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
PhilippinesPresentNativePIER (2015); USDA-ARS (2015)
SingaporePresentNativePIER (2015)
TaiwanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
ThailandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
VietnamPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden (2015)

North America

United StatesPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2015)
-FloridaPresentIntroducedInvasiveHutchinson and Langeland (2010); USDA-NRCS (2015)

Oceania

AustraliaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2015)
-New South WalesPresentNativePIER (2015); USDA-ARS (2015); CABI (Undated)
-Northern TerritoryPresentNativePIER (2015); USDA-ARS (2015); CABI (Undated)
-QueenslandPresentNativePIER (2015); USDA-ARS (2015); CABI (Undated)
-Western AustraliaPresentNativePIER (2015); USDA-ARS (2015); CABI (Undated)
Federated States of MicronesiaPresentNativePIER (2015); USDA-ARS (2015)
FijiPresentNativePIER (2015); USDA-ARS (2015)
GuamPresentNativePIER (2015)
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentNativePIER (2015)Rota and Saipan
PalauPresentNativePIER (2015)
Papua New GuineaPresentNativePIER (2015); USDA-ARS (2015); CABI (Undated)
Solomon IslandsPresentNativePIER (2015)

South America

GuyanaPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee (2015)

History of Introduction and Spread

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It has been reported that L. microphyllum was introduced to Florida in the 1950s and naturalized only a few years later (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2015). The type in the Everglades, Florida most likely originated from northern Queensland, Australia, and/or Papua New Guinea (Goolsby et al., 2006). Analysis of chloroplast DNA of L. microphyllum from populations in Cape York Queensland, were found to be an exact match with the invasive populations in Florida (Goolsby et al., 2003).

The historical records of both L. japonicum and L. microphyllum were examined by Hutchinson and Langeland (2010), with the oldest known collection in 1958 along the Loxahatchee River in Florida. These records however, most likely represent cultivated plants with the first documented naturalized plants being recorded in 1965 (Hutchinson and Langeland, 2010).

L. microphyllum may also be extending its native range, for example in south and east Asia, though further research is required. Singh et al. (2012) report a new record in Meghalaya, in Nokrek National Park, north-eastern India, though USDA-ARS (2015) note it as native in India and Nepal. However, there was a record from neighbouring Assam in 1886 (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2015), thus is likely to be native there. More detailed analysis of distribution records in China and south-east Asia may also reveal historical limits and spread.

L. microphyllum has spread rapidly in Florida. It is present in at least 26 different counties within the state and it is considered that it is far from reaching the limits of its potential range (EDDMapS, 2015). The climate matching programme CLIMEX was used to predict the potential distribution of L. microphyllum in the Americas using records from near to its native ecoclimatic limits in China and Australia. They noted that the climate is suitable for L. microphyllum to expand further into central Florida, large parts of the Caribbean, Central and South America (Goolsby, 2004). An alternative model by Volin et al. (2004) examined seasonality of its spore production, growth and community ecology, combined with aerial transects of L. microphyllum infestations across southern Florida, and developed a spatial model to predict it becoming widely established throughout the Everglades by 2014. They considered that factors such as release from natural enemies may help explain the invasion success of L. microphyllum, but that it appears likely that traits related to its reproduction such as propagule pressure and its ability to grow in a low light understory environment are more important in explaining its ability to invade both disturbed and undisturbed areas far from source populations (Volin et al., 2004).

Risk of Introduction

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As a popular ornamental species, it is highly likely that L. microphyllum may be further introduced via the nursery trade, even though attention has be drawn to its invasiveness and that of other Lygodium species.

A weed risk assessment for the USA recommended that based on their moderate to moderate high risk scores, L. microphyllum, L. japonicum and L. flexuosum be considered for listing as Federal Noxious Weeds under the authority granted to APHIS by the Plant Protection Act (USDA-APHIS, 2009).

Habitat

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L. microphyllum is common on moist, acid soil in wooded thickets, marshes and open woodlands and in open marshy or semi marshy areas and disturbed forests from plains to high altitudes.

In Florida, where L. microphyllum is invasive, it is a major invader of forested, freshwater wetlands, cypress dominated ecosystems (Taxodium species), in pine flatwoods (Pinus species), wet prairies, sawgrass marshes (Cladium mariscus subsp. jamaicense), mangrove communities (Rhizophora, Avicennia, and/or Laguncularia species), and Everglades tree islands (Munger, 2005; Soti et al., 2014). It was noted that the presence of small-spike false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), royal fern (Osmunda regalis), resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides), and toothed midsorus fern (Blechnum serrulatum) were significant indicators of its occurrence in the Big Cypress National Preserve and in the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in southern Florida (Munger, 2005; Soti et al., 2014). L. microphyllum does also invade a wide range of communities, primarily those with some standing water but also some with more mesic sites and coastal ecosystems.

It is also found in oil palm plantations in West Sumatra, Indonesia (Germer and Sauerborn, 2003) and Holm et al. (1979) notes that it may also be an agricultural weed in its native range.

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
 
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural
Wetlands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Principal habitat Natural
Littoral
Coastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Present, no further details Natural
Mangroves Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Mangroves Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

Chromosome numbers reported in Missouri Botanic gardens (2015) are 2n = 30 from the native range in Australia, India and Japan. A single record of 2n = 60 that may be a possible error in visual observation is also reported (Missouri Botanic gardens 2015).

Reproductive Biology

Lott et al. (2003) examined sexual expression and sporophyte production of L. microphyllum and L. japonicum in Florida, USA. The rapid long distance dispersal is thought to rely on successful intragametophytic selfing, with 78% of L. microphyllum and more than 90% of L. japonicum isolates producing sporophytes (Lott et al., 2003). L. microphyllum also displayed an ability to reproduce via intergametophytic crossing, facilitated by an antheridiogen pheromone. Sporophyte production was rapid across mating systems for both species, an advantage in Florida's wet and dry seasonal cycles. The high selfing rate achieved has likely facilitated the ability of these species of Lygodium to colonize and spread through Florida. The mixed mating system observed in L. microphyllum also appears to give this species the ability to invade distant habitats and then subsequently adapt to local conditions (Lott et al., 2003).

Physiology and Phenology

Gandiaga et al. (2009) studied the growth and physiology of L. microphyllum rapidly colonizing forested wetlands in Florida, USA. Flooding reduced relative growth rates by 55%, whereas periodic exposure to a soil water potential of -1 MPa did not affect growth or physiology (Gandiaga et al., 2009). Application of growth regulators had no effect on growth, morphology or physiology, though L. microphyllum and L. reticulatum produced antheridiogens at a high level (Kurumatani et al., 2001). Although flooding substantially reduced growth, L. microphyllum still showed a positive relative growth rate after more than two months of inundated soils. This hydrological plasticity was considered likely to be a contributing factor to its widespread establishment across a range of plant communities within the Florida Everglades ecosystem (Gandiaga et al., 2009).

Soil factors affecting the invasiveness of L. microphyllum were evaluated by Volin et al. (2010), to test the hypothesis that release from natural belowground enemies contributes to its vigorous growth when compared to plants in the native range in Australia. However, against expectations, optimal growth rates were higher in Australian populations than those from Florida, while the comparatively poor growth of all populations in unaltered soil was stimulated by nutrient amendment and sterilization. Results indicate that invasiveness of L. microphyllum in Florida is not a simple phenotypic difference in inherent growth rate as predicted by the evolution of increased competitive ability hypothesis, but may be mediated in part by a release from soil borne enemies that vary in their effectiveness even within the native range (Volin et al., 2010).

Volin et al. (2004) report that spores are produced all year round in Florida, but that spore production and leaf area reached a peak during the wet season from September to November. USDA-APHIS (2009) suggests that seven traits contribute greatly to the establishment, naturalization and spread of L. microphyllum and L. japonicum in the USA. These include the tolerance to a wide range of light conditions, massive amounts of spore production, long distance wind dispersal of spores, self-compatible gametophytes, tolerance to fire, relatively rapid growth and photosynthetic rates and regional spread via several pathways.

Environmental Requirements

L. microphyllum is a species native to wide range of tropical and subtropical environments. It prefers permanently moist to wet areas, though not those that are permanently waterlogged. It does not tolerate drought, nor frost, but will tolerate brackish water and poor, saline soils. L. microphyllum spores exhibited a six to thirteen fold reduction in germination after being frozen for more than three hours and were highly susceptible to freezing periods above six hours (Hutchinson and Langeland, 2014). In contrast to this freezing temperature did not affect germination of L. japonicum, indicating the higher cold tolerance of the latter species (Hutchinson and Langeland, 2014). 

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 20 30
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 15 25
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 5 15

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration04number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Bimodal
Summer
Uniform

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • impeded
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral
  • very acid

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline
  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Archips asiaticus Herbivore Leaves not specific Pratt et al., 2016
Austromusotima camptozonale Herbivore Leaves to genus Boughton et al., 2007 Florida, USA L. microphyllum
Bipolaris sacchari Pathogen Leaves Elliott and Rayamajhi, 2008
Floracarus perrepae Herbivore Leaves to species Wood, 2004 Florida, USA L. microphyllum
Milesia lygodii Pathogen Leaves Elliott and Rayamajhi, 2008
Neomusotima conspurcatalis Herbivore Leaves to genus Boughton et al., 2009 Flordia, USA L. microphyllum

Notes on Natural Enemies

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There have been numerous records of pests and diseases attacking L. microphyllum, many resulting from the search for biological control agents.

Across its native distribution in the Old World tropics from Africa to Australasia, L. microphyllum was found to be attacked by a phytophagous leaf galling eriophyid mite, Floracarus perrepae (Wood, 2004; Elliott and Rayamajhi, 2005; Goolsby et al., 2006). A species of Callopistria appeared to be a specialized fern feeder with the larvae feeding only on the foliage of L. microphyllum in southern India (Jesudasan et al., 2004). Described as a new species, Octothrips lygodii [Octothrips bhatti] is the second species of a poorly known genus that has been based on a single damaged male from Papua New Guinea (Mound, 2002).

Two new moth species, Lygomusotima stria and L.constricta were discovered from Australia and south east Asia. L. stria was seen feeding on L. microphyllum (Solis et al., 2004), and is compared with Neomusotima conspurcatalis, another species that was discovered feeding on L. microphyllum. The musotimine moth Cataclysta camptozonale was found to be highly specific and was tested as a biological control agent, though Yen et al. (2004) proposed Austromusotima gen. nov., to accommodate Austromusotima camptozonale comb. nov., as the type species, with the syntype series of Oligostima camptozonale a mixture of specimens of the former species (sensu stricto) and its sibling, A. metastictalis comb. nov.

A number of diseases were recorded from L. microphyllum. These include Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, Puccinia lygodii [Milesia lygodii] and Bipolaris sacchari (Jones et al., 2003; Rayamajhi et al., 2005; Elliott and Rayamajhi, 2008). The pathogen Glomerella cingulata [C. gloeosporioides] was identified from symptomatic foliage including lesions associated with leaf curls caused by the mite F. perrepae in Queensland, Australia. Anthracnose symptoms with chlorotic margins, initiating at the tip or base of the individual pinnules were observed on fronds, with dieback on growing tips, with sunken lesions and a gradual necrotic wilt as far as the next growth junction of pinnae (Ireland et al., 2008). This is thought to be the first report of G. cingulata [C. gloeosporioides] infecting L. microphyllum in Australia.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

The principle means of dispersal of the tiny spores, which are produced in very large amounts, appears to be via the wind which can blow the spores over very large distances.

Accidental Introduction

L. microphyllum can also contaminate pine straw and hay leading to regulatory action against these products and potentially lower product value (USDA-APHIS, 2009).

Intentional Introduction

Introduction outside of its native range has been deliberate as an ornamental species. This species along other species of Lygodium can still be found in many ornamental plant catalogues today.

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Floating vegetation and debris Yes
Soil, sand and gravel Yes
Water Yes

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenity Negative
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Biodiversity

L. microphyllum can create a dense mat of live and dead fern fronds and the prolific growth rapidly shades or smothers the underlying vegetation and even tall trees. This promotes fire in plant canopies, changes fire regimes, alters the habitat structure and reduces the native plant diversity (USDA-APHIS, 2009).

Colonization and growth of L. microphyllum is characterized by several spatial and temporal factors (Fujisaki et al., 2010). Examining the effects of a natural disturbance (hurricanes) on potential invasion of tree islands by L. microphyllum in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, Lynch et al. (2009) found that the density of L. microphyllum was higher in tree fall plots compared to non-disturbed areas, being significantly related to canopy cover and presence of water. Results suggested that disturbances such as hurricanes result in canopy openings and the creation of disturbed areas with standing water that contribute to the ability of L. microphyllum to invade natural areas and impact on the native vegetation (Ugarte et al., 2006; Lynch et al., 2009). Independent of disturbance, in the same refuge, Wu et al. (2006) found that L. microphyllum is more likely to establish on the southeast side of a tree island and spread to the northwest, corresponding to the prevailing wind direction. Besides its ability to smother native vegetation, L. microphyllum is also allelopathic to tested plants (Wang et al., 2014).

More information on the impacts of L. microphyllum and related species can be found in USDA-APHIS (2009).

Social Impact

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As L. microphyllum forms impenetrable blankets that are unsightly and relatively useless to wildlife, they are likely to restrict outdoor recreational activities such as hunting and wildlife spotting (USDA-APHIS, 2009).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Reproduces asexually
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Modification of fire regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Allelopathic
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field

Uses

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The main use of L. microphyllum and other members of the genus is as an attractive and fast growing ornamental fern. Antibacterial activity of methanol extracts of fronds of L. microphyllum were shown by Gracelin et al. (2012). Leaf extracts were also found to have some anti-feedant effect on larvae of Spodoptera litura (Ragupathy et al., 2004). The young fronds of L. microphyllum may be eaten. 

Uses List

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Environmental

  • Amenity
  • Landscape improvement

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • garden plant

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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L. microphyllum should not be confused in the eastern USA with the native L. palmatum. It should be noted that closely related L. japonicum is also invasive in parts of the USA including Hawaii, Australia, Florida and Singapore (PIER, 2015). The distribution of L. microphyllum over laps with L. japonicum in peninsular Florida. These species can be distinguished from each other by the pinnae; L. microphyllum pinnae are primarily 1-pinnate, while those of L. japonicum are typically 2-3-pinnate.

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Control

Physical/Mechanical Control

Small patches of L. microphyllum can be removed by hand pulling ensuring that the root is removed. Follow up treatment for any regrowth with a herbicide is recommended.

Biological Control

The potential of L. microphyllum for biological control has been well studied with surveys in the native range revealing a whole suite of natural enemies (Wright et al., 1999; Smith et al., 2002; Wood and García, 2002)

Surveys for natural enemies have been conducted in Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Caledonia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam (Goolsby et al., 2003).

A species of moth, Austromusotima camptozonale was identified as a potential biocontrol agent and after host range testing it was concluded that this species would pose no threat to native or cultivated plants in North America or the Caribbean (Boughton et al., 2007; Boughton et al., 2011). A. camptozonale was the first biocontrol agent approved for release against L. microphyllum but despite several years of releases it failed to establish (Boughton and Pemberton, 2012). Further details of this biocontrol agent can be found in Boughton et al. (2007) and Rayamajhi et al. (2014).

Another moth, Neomusotima conspurcatalis, was first discovered in Hong Kong in 1997 and was subsequently found causing feeding damage on L. microphyllum in much of its native range in Asia. Host range testing recorded no significant oviposition or feeding on any of the 41 non-target species. It was however able to complete its lifecycle on the invasive, L. japonicum and Florida native, L. palmatum, but survival on these species was reduced when compared to that on L. microphyllum. It was concluded by Boughton et al. (2009) that N. conspurcatalis would pose no threat to native or cultivated plants in North America and the Caribbean and should be considered for release. Releases of this biocontrol agent took place in Florida in 2008 and 2009 and the agent readily established at some sites (Boughton et al., 2009). N. conspurcatalis is however sensitive to cold and frost events (Boughton et al., 2012). This however is one of the reasons why N. conspurcatalis was approved for release as it will not pose a threat to the native L. palmatum which is present in temperate regions. Later results suggest that under favourable environmental conditions, N. conspurcatalis is capable of contributing to the suppression of L. microphyllum in south Florida, although the long term impacts on the population dynamics of the weed are not yet known (Boughton et al., 2011; Smith et al., 2016). A parasitoid, Stantonia pallida, of N. conspurcatalis was also identified in the field (Kula et al., 2010). Further information can be found in Smith et al. (2014) and Boughton et al. (2011). A second species within the genus, N. fuscolinealis was also assed but rejected as it poses a threat to the native L. palmatum (Bennett and Pemberton, 2008).

During surveys in Australia, an eriophyid mite, Floracarus perrepae, was found causing leaf curling on L. microphyllum and L. reticulatum (Knihinicki and Boczek, 2002). This species was also identified in China and New Caledonia. Field experiments in both Australia and India have been conducted (Goolsby et al., 2004; Muthuraj and Jesudasan 2011). Host range testing of F. perrepae found it to be specific to L. microphyllum. Mites were released in Florida from 2008 to 2009 but failed to establish populations in the majority of plots (Boughton and Pemberton, 2011). In 2013, a number of the original release sites were resurveyed and revealed the presence and spread of the mites (Lake et al., 2014). The impact of the mites on L. microphyllum is unknown.

The soil fungus Myrothecium verrucaria has been tested for its pathogenicity on L. microphyllum. Plants were spray inoculated with M. verrucaria which resulted in successful disease development with leaf necrosis symptoms, demonstrating the efficacy of this fungus as a severe retardant of Lygodium growth (Clarke et al., 2007).

Surveys for natural enemies as potential biocontrol agents of L. microphyllum are currently ongoing with surveys taking place in Australia (Purcell et al., 2013).

Chemical Control

Aerial application of metsulfuron can be used for control of large stands of L. microphyllum on tree islands in Florida, though follow up ground treatments are required within one year to control regrowth and to treat new plants (Hutchinson and Langeland, 2012; 2013). However, where susceptible non-target species are common and there is a high potential for severe non-target damage, ground applications should be implemented instead of aerial applications (Hutchinson and Langeland, 2008). Whereas spores were highly susceptible to metsulfuron, they exhibited tolerance to imazapyr, glyphosate, fluroxypyr, asulam, and triclopyr (Hutchinson and Langeland, 2011).

Land managers in Florida have reported that multiple herbicide treatments are required for effective control. This could indicate that herbicides do not translocate throughout the plant in long established populations and based on autoradiographs, there was limited horizontal movement of herbicides in the rhizomes which could explain why resprouts are often observed several weeks following treatment (Hutchinson et al., 2010).

The recommended method for treatment of invasive plants in Florida's natural areas, in order to minimize potential for development of resistance, is to rotate herbicides with different modes of action or use tank mixtures of two or more herbicides with different modes of action (Hutchinson et al., 2007).

IPM

The effectiveness of fire and/or triclopyr ester in killing L. microphyllum in a southern Florida pine community have been examined (Sticker et al., 2008). All fire and/or herbicide treatments killed standing plants however neither treatment completely prevented regrowth, and every treatment had at least one new frond at the end of the three year study. Fire and/or herbicide treatments did not permanently decrease native species cover, richness, evenness or diversity and native species cover increased following biannual herbicide and fire/biannual herbicide treatments. However, L. microphyllum can return to former amounts of biomass and cover within a few years of burning, so waiting too long to inspect and retreat negates the benefits of using fire to reduce L. microphyllum biomass (Stocker et al., 2008).

References

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PIER, 2015. Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk., Honolulu, USA: HEAR, University of Hawaii. http://www.hear.org/pier/index.html

USDA-ARS, 2015. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysimple.aspx

USDA-NRCS, 2015. The PLANTS Database. Greensboro, North Carolina, USA: National Plant Data Team. https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov

Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

Contributors

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25/03/2015 Original text by:

Nick Pasiecznik, Agroforestry Enterprises, France

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