U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



Agricultural Research January 2002


A team of two tiny moths might help stop the spread of Old World climbing fern, an aggressive vine that’s on the march in central and south Florida. With further research, a third moth, a hungry mite, a small beetle, and perhaps other hardworking organisms as well may qualify to join the coterie of pint-sized weedeaters.

Known to botanists as Lygodium microphyllum, Old World climbing fern makes its way up stems and trunks of other plants, forming blankets of lightgreen vegetation.

On the ground, climbing fern creates tough, spongy mats that can easily smother grasses, low-growing shrubs, and small trees. Today, it infests more than 100,000 acres in Florida and shows no sign of slowing its advance.

ARS scientists based at research laboratories in Florida and Australia are scrutinizing natural enemies of the fern. They’re searching the globe for promising organisms, then subjecting them to rigorous tests in their laboratories.

Some of the studies are host-specificity experiments. They are designed to determine whether the moths will munch on climbing fern alone and not harm native ferns or other vegetation.