What's that pretty vine? Japanese Climbing Fern!

invasive plants management Feb 25, 2021
I have heard this question more times than I can count on my hands... "What's that pretty vine?!"
And it's true... it IS a PRETTY vine...
Its small leaflets.
Its unique light, bright green color.
Its bright, copper-wire looking vines.
It's a super cute, pretty vine... 100% agree!
It's also invasive.
Incredibly. Invasive.
What IS that pretty vine?
Japanese Climbing Fern.
"But how bad can it be when it looks THIS good?"
Well folks, in my opinion most bad things come all pretty and packaged up with a bow... and that's why (one of the why's...) they last so long here before we even realize we're over our head!

How bad is this vine?

It grows fast.
It spreads by spores... millions and millions of wind dispersed spores.
It climbs UP trees (yes I know, it's a vine, so that's not really a surprise) but it can completely cover a tree and a forested area...chocking it out from sunlight and killing them
It's very flammable.
So we have a fast growing, spreading, LADDER that can ignite up and intensify your wildfire (or prescribed burn) hotter than native vines and grasses and forbs would. That fire was spreading through thigh-high bushes has now reached the 60 feet tall flames and spreading among the canopy tops...scorching your tree crows (aka killing your trees).
Japanese Climbing Fern.
The devil painted up in a pretty green dress, seducing you for "just one more drink."

So how can you identify if it is on your property?

It's a perennial climbing fern. Vines are thin, wiry and a bright copper color (on new growths).
Leaflets are compound and finely dissected in a triangular shape, 3-6 inches in length.
*During parts of the year spores can easily be seen as double rows of dots under the margins.

How can you eradicate it?

You're going to need to do a combination of mechanical and chemical operations IF POSSIBLE. Depending on the severity of the infestation, a chemical may have to be performed after a timber harvest while making sure to have equipment is sprayed thoroughly to prevent/reduce the spread across your property from the equipment.
But if it's a small area...
Cut the vine low to the ground and again at least 4.5 feet higher (creating a gap within the vine). You want to minimize the ability of the vine to climb up and reach itself to cling to easily. Shortly after, spray the bottom section of the vine with (thoroughly wetting the leaves) with one of the following: a glyphosate herbicide (Garlon 3A or Garlon 4) as a 2% solution OR Escort XP at 1-2 ounces per acre in water OR Arsenal AC as a 1% solution. . Ideally, for the most effect, you'll do this in September.
If the vine is largely spread, especially throughout the stand you can wait until after a timber sale and broadcast spray.

for facts with control recommendations.
"Okay, that seems a bit much." 
"I don't believe in herbicides and want the ecosystem to be as natural as possible."

That's your choice. It is YOUR land.
But while that "pretty little vine" is making you "oooohh" and "aahhhh", looking to the left... it will, maybe slowly and gradually, but it will choke out all those beneficial and diverse natural, native plants and wildlife habitat that you are cherishing as a natural ecosystem. While it is flashing it's pretty green dress and copper coins, assuring you there is no urgency to worry about... it will be taking over everything else and robbing you blind of your land's potential.
When in doubt if you have a plant, or a vine, to be worried about:
Call your local county forester to do a site inspection. Let them identify if the plant is a concern or not, and provide a plan of action if needed.
Your county foresters are available to help you with so much more than harvesting and reforestation advice (although great advice that can be!), but be sure to utilize their expertise in all the other areas of forest management too!
Find Out the One Thing I Ask ALL My Students When Just Getting Started as A Landowner. 

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