Pueraria montana var. lobata (Willd.) Maes. & S. Almeida
Pea family (Fabaceae)
Origin: Temperate and Tropical Asia, Australasia, and Pacific
Kudzu was introduced to the United States from Japan in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, as an ornamental plant. In early 1900s, it was recognized and promoted as a forage crop and planted throughout the southeastern U.S. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Soil Conservation Service paid southern farmers to plant kudzu to reduce soil erosion on deforested lands, resulting in over 1 million acres being planted. Kudzu, nicknamed “the vine that ate the South,” was recognized as a pest weed in the 1950s and removed from the list of acceptable species in the Agricultural Conservation Program. In 1998, it was listed as a federal noxious weed by the U.S. Congress.
Distribution and Habitat
Kudzu occurs primarily in the eastern U.S. and has been reported to be invasive in natural areas from Connecticut to Florida and west to Texas. Infestations have also been reported in North Dakota and Oregon. Kudzu grows well under a wide range of conditions and in many soil types. Preferred habitats are open, sunny areas like forest edges, abandoned fields, roadsides and disturbed areas. Kudzu grows best where winters are mild, summer temperatures are above 80°F and annual rainfall is 40 inches or more.
Its vigorous growth and large leaves smother and shade out native plants. It can kill trees through girdling and the extra weight of vines can lead to toppling during storms. Once established, kudzu plants grow rapidly, extending as much as 60 feet per season, about 1 foot per day.
Description and Biology
Prevention and Biological Control
Do not plant kudzu. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating biological control agents for kudzu including the naturally occurring fungus Myrothecium verrucaria. For successful long-term control of kudzu, the extensive root system must be destroyed. Any remaining root crowns can lead to reinfestation of an area. Mechanical methods include repeated cutting of vines just above ground level, frequent mowing and cultivation. Use of systemic herbicides with the active ingredients triclopyr and glyphosate have been used effectively (see Control Options).
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