Old World Climbing Fern Growing up Native Trees in a Natural Area​​

​South Florida's warm tropical climate creates growing season for plants all year long.  Unfortunately, this also encourages plants introduced from other regions and even continents, either purposefully or accidentally, to proliferate.  These nonnative plants often become invasive due to their ability to grow quickly, produce abundant seeds, flourish in a wide range of soil conditions and live without their natural enemies to keep them in check. Invasive nonnative plants displace native plants species, turning healthy, diverse habitats into monocultures that offer little in the way of food or shelter to Florida's native animals.  ​


Large monoculture stand of Melaleuca trees in a natural area

​Why Should You Care About These Nonnative Invasive Plants?

HEALTH:  They pose serious health threats to persons allergic to pollen or sap.

DAMAGE TO PROPERTY: Many of these plants are easily damaged during high wind events due to brittle wood and/or shallow root systems.

MESSY: Some plants produce large quantities of fruits which stain sidewalks, patios, and cars.

DESTROY PARADISE: Florida's forests and wetlands are being devoured by plants such as Old World climbing fern which blankets large areas of central and southern Florida.

​​​Nonnative Invasive Plants Prohibited in Palm Beach County

​Article 14.C of Palm Beach County's Unified Land Development Code

  • ​​Requires removal of nine (listed below) nonnative invasive plants prior to receipt of a Certificate of Occupancy for new construction in unincorporated​ Palm Beach County.​​
  • Prohibits planting any of these nine nonnative invasive plants.
  • Properties in unincorporated Palm Beach County improved after 1986 must remain clear of these nine nonnative invasive plants.
  • Individual municipalities may have their own nonnative invasive plant removal requirements.

Article 14.D of Palm Beach County's Unified Land Development Code
  • Requires removal of nine (listed below) nonnative invasive plants on all properties within 500 feet of a designated natural area, including those in municipalities.
  • Requires the removal of Old World climbing fern and air potato from all developed properties countywide.
​​Air potato
Dioscorea bulbifera
Close up of air potato leaves and tubers
Id​entifying Characteristics:
Vine with stems up to 60 feet.  Heart-shaped leaves. Aerial tubers ("potatoes") are round, brown and range in size from golf ball to tennis ball size.
Growth Characteristics:
Found in residential areas, growing on fence lines and trees, especially in shady areas.  Dormant in winter, dropping tubers that sprout in spring.
Did you Know?
Introduced in 1905 from tropical Asia for commercial use to provide food for livestock.
​​Brazilian pepper
S​chinus terebinthifolius
Close up of Brazilian pepper leaves and berries
​​I​​dentifying Characteristics:
Multi-trunked shrub or tree; can grow up to 40 feet tall, forming thickets. Crushed leaves smell peppery or like turpentine. Produces clusters of red berries.
Growth Characteristics:
Salt-tolerant, able to withstand flooding, fire and drought. Sprouts easily from trunk and roots. Seeds spread by widlife (birds and small mammals).
Did You Know?
Relative of poison ivy. Sap may irritate skina and pollen may cause respiratory irritation.
Earleaf acacia
Acacia auriculiformis Close up of seed pods and leaves of earleaf acacia tree​​
Identifying Characteristics:
Tree up to 50 feet tall. Leaves are blade-like and slightly curved, up to 8 inches long. Fruits are produced in flat, brown, oblong pods which are twisted at maturity.
Growth Characteristics:
​Invades pinelands, scrub, and hammocks.  A fast-growing, brittle tree that breaks easily in storms. Displaces native vegetation and threaten to shade out rare plants.
Did You Know?
​Originally from Australia and Indonesia. Introduced during the early 1930s as a landscape plant.
​Old World climbing fern
Lygodium microphyllum​
Close up of leaflets on Old World Climbing Fern
I​dentifying Characteristics:
Vine-like fern that can grow up to 90 feet. Wiry stems may be green to orange, turning dark brown or black. Leaves are 2 to 6 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide.
Growth Characteristics:
Will grow in shady or sunny areas. Form mats up to 4 feet thick on trees and shrubs, smothering native vegetation. Reproduce by millions of spores spread by wind.
Did You Know?
Facilitates the spread of fire into the tree canopy which can fuel destructive wildfires.
Australian pine
Casuarina spp.​
Austrialian pine sapling
​Identifying Characteristics: 
Evergreen tree up to 150 feet tall. Although the tree resembles a pine, it doe snot have needles. Seeds form woody, cone-like clusters about 3/4 inch long.
Growth Characteristics:
Found on sandy shores, pinelands and road shoulders. Grows very fast - 5 to 10 feet per year. Trees blow over easily in storms due to shallow root systems.
Did You Know?
Introduced in the early 1900s and planted as windbreaks and shade trees.
Cupaniopsis anacardioides
Close up of seeds and leaves on carrotwood tree​​​
​​Identifying Characteristics:
Tree up to 35 feet tall. Leaves are evergreen, shiny and leathery. Fruits are formed in 1 inch capsules and are yellow to orange when ripe - split to reveal 3 seeds.
Growth Characteristics:
Grows in wet and dry areas, in any soil type, in full sun or full shade. Invades coastal sites including mangroves, cypress swamps, and marshes. Seeds dispersed by birds.
Did You Know?
Introduced as landscape plant in the 1960s. Dropped fruits can stain sidewalks and cars.
Pueraria montana var. lobata
Close up of kudzu leaves and flowers
​​Identifying Characteristics:
​Vine wi​​th rope-like brown woody stems up to 100 feet long. Lavender flowers bloom June to September. Fruits are clustered, dry, flattened, bean pods.
Growth Characteristics:
Occurs along streams and roadsides. Forms dense mats over the ground, debris, shrubs, and trees. Can kill a tree by blocking out all sunlight.
Did You Know?
​Found throughout the southeast. More common in northern Florida than southern Florida.
Melaleuca quinquenervia
Close up image of peeling bark (left) and leaves (right) on Melaleuca tree​​
Identifying Characteristics:​​
Tree up to 100 feet tall. White, many-layered peeling bark. Leaves smell like camphor when crushed. Fruits are small, brown, cone-like clusters that can hold up to 300 seeds.
Growth Characteristics:
Prefers wet sites such as lake shores, swamps and wetlands. Sprouts easily from stumps and roots. Spreads rapidly, creating thickets. Releases seeds when stressed.
Did you Know?
May cause headaches, rashes, asthma attacks and respiratory irritation in some people.

​​Queensland umbrella tree
Schefflera actinolphylla
Close up of mature schefflera tree leaves​​
Identifying Characteristics:
Evergreen tree up to 40 feet tall. Leaves up to 2 feet long, shiny, palm-like shape. Red flowers appear in dense clusters above foliage.
Growth Characteristics:
​Found in a variety of habitats, from cypress swamps to sand pine scrub. Can be found growing in seedlings in the boots of cabbage palms (similar to strangler figs).
Did You Know?
Introduced in 1927 for use as an indoor house plant and outdoor landscaping.​