District battles latest threat against public conservation lands

News Release

h3. Old World climbing fern threatening the Green Swamp

With threats from new invasive plants and animal species continuing to rise in Florida, the "Southwest Florida Water Management District(Southwest Florida Water Management District)":/
is battling to keep a new invasive vine from infesting the "Green Swamp(Interactive Green Swamp)":/education/interactive/greenswamp/greenswamp.html.

"Old World climbing fern(Old World Climbing Fern
)":/projects/invasives/old-world-fern.php is spreading from South Florida and has been detected and treated as far north as Hernando, Lake and Sumter counties.

Lygodium microphyllum, or Old World climbing fern, is native to Africa, Asia and Australia and was first found in South Florida in the late 1950s. Dense mats of the vine can cover and eventually kill trees, shrubs and plants, degrading wildlife habitats. The flammable vine also poses a fire danger by carrying fire into wetland and swamp areas that normally help contain controlled burns and wildfires. Trees covered by the vine burn up to the treetops, which can result in the death of even the most fire-tolerant trees.

The District is partnering with a variety of public and private agencies to prevent the establishment and spread of Old World climbing fern in the 560,000-acre Green Swamp. Partners include "The Nature Conservancy(The Nature Conservancy)":http://www.nature.org, the "Florida Department of Agriculture(Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)":http://www.doacs.state.fl.us, the "Florida Department of Environmental Protection(Florida Department of Environmental Protection)":http://www.dep.state.fl.us/, the "Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission(Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)":http://myfwc.com and the "U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)":http://www.fws.gov as well as "Lake(Lake County, Florida)":http://www.lakecountyfl.gov/, "Polk(Polk County, Florida)":http://www.polk-county.net and "Pasco(Pasco County, Florida)":http://portal.pascocountyfl.net

"If we allow Old World climbing fern to become firmly established, it will be very difficult to control due to the size and remote nature of the Green Swamp," said Brian Nelson, District aquatic plant manager. "It's going to take an ongoing cooperative effort to treat infestations on both public and private lands because the vine's reproductive spores can become airborne and travel across property lines."

The District and its partners look for new infestations by conducting ground and aerial surveys and by talking to land owners and community groups. Spraying the vines with herbicides is currently the best method to treat and eradicate them. Treated infestations usually require monitoring and re-treatment.

Land owners and residents can join in the fight by learning to identify Old World climbing fern, which can be easily confused with the more common "Japanese climbing fern(Japanese climbing fern)":http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/639. Visit "WaterMatters.org/oldworldclimbingfern/(Old World Climbing Fern
)":/projects/invasives/old-world-fern.php to view photos of both species. Infestations of Old World climbing fern in the Green Swamp area should be reported to District Aquatic Plant Manager Brian Nelson at 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4537 or Rosalind Rowe with The Nature Conservancy at (941) 320-4363.

The Green Swamp is the largest undeveloped tract of land in the region, located in portions of Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Polk, Sumter and Lake counties. The District owns 110,000 acres of the Green Swamp, known as the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve, to protect the land and water resources. The Green Swamp serves as the headwaters of four major rivers and protecting the swamp is vital to protecting the region's water supplies.

Note to Media: To arrange a media tour of an Old World climbing fern infestation and/or the Green Swamp, contact Robyn Felix at 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4770. For more information and a map of the Green Swamp, visit the District's web site at "WaterMatters.org/oldworldclimbingfern/(Old World Climbing Fern

*Old World climbing fern facts*

* Lygodium microphyllum, or Old World climbing fern, is native to Africa, Asia and Australia and was first found in South Florida in the late 1950s.

* From 1993 to 2005, the fern increased from 27,000 acres to 122,787 acres in Florida.

* A single fertile leaf can produce 28,600 spores. Each spore is capable of traveling through the air and producing a new population of the vine many miles away.

* The vines can grow up to 90 feet long.

* The most common method of treating Old World climbing fern is spraying it with a herbicide. Researchers are continuing to look for insects or other potential biocontrol agents to control it.

* It can cost several hundred dollars per acre to treat Old World climbing fern.

* The District spends more than $1 million per year to control "water hyacinth, water lettuce and hydrilla(Aquatic Plant Management
)":/projects/aquaticplants on lakes and rivers and "Cogon grass(Cogongrass)":http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/199, "Old World climbing fern(Old World Climbing Fern
)":/projects/invasives/old-world-fern.php, "Brazilian pepper(Brazilian pepper-tree)":http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/405, "tropical soda apple(Tropical soda apple)":http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/426, "downy-rose myrtle(Downy rose myrtle)":http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/364, "air potato(Air potato)":http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/133 and "other invasive species(Exotic Species Management
)":/about/isspapers/speciesmanagement.html on on District-managed conservation lands.

* The state of Florida and other agencies spend millions of dollars per year to control invasive plants and animals.