During this time of year, some of us are eager to see more green in the rather barren east Texas woods of winter. Sometimes the green we see is not as welcome as we might first believe. While there are many pleasant shades of green out there that come from several types of evergreen trees and vines, there is one shade of green that my eye is particularly trained upon: Japanese Climbing Fern.
The Japanese Climbing Fern is native to Asia and tropical Australia. Like many other invasive species, it was introduced here due to its striking appearance and its ease of cultivation in local gardens. After its introduction in the 1930's, it became a very popular garden addition. Unfortunately, while it may make a particular corner of a garden "pop" with its striking leaves and healthy growth, its escape into our natural habitats can be disastrous. Japanese Climbing Fern can form dense mats, twining and climbing over anything in its way: trees, shrubs, telephone poled, etc. The dense growth shades out native species and reduces diversity in a habitat.
Being a fern, it does not produce a flower and does not reproduce via seed. It thrives and colonizes by rhizomes and spreads rapidly by wind dispersed spores. Those tiny powder-like spores are dispersed not only via the wind but also by any conveyance they can hitch a ride including the mud in your shores, your clothing, your pets and, of course, with free roaming wildlife. Another way it is moved from place to place is in pine straw bales used for mulching your landscape. That is another reason you should insist that any pine straw used to mulch your beds be weed free. You should be leery of what pine straw mulch may bring into your garden as several non-native invasive species can travel the U.S. in these bales.