It is estimated that 2 million acres of forests in the southern United States are covered with kudzu! This climbing perennial vine was brought to the US to be used as an ornamental plant and as a forage crop in 1876. Many Southern farmers were encouraged to plant kudzu for erosion control from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s. It was not until 1953 that this plant was recognized as a pest species by the US Department of Agriculture, and it is now classified as an invasive species.
At a rate of 1 foot per day, kudzu can grow over almost anything in its path including homes, cars and road signs! It also smothers native vegetation, threatening local biodiversity.
Kudzu has the potential to reach up to 100 feet in length. The woody stems can reach a diameter of ½ to 4 inches. Leaflets are 3 lobed, broad and are arranged alternately. In addition, leaflets may have hairy margins. The purple flowers are ½ inch long and found in hanging clusters. Flowering occurs in late summer, followed by the production of brown, hairy, flattened
, seed pods that contain three to ten seeds.
(Photo credit: James H. Miller & Ted Bodner – Organization: Southern Weed Science Society)
Control and Management
Prevention: Prevention of the sale and transport of Kudzu is the most cost-effective means of management.
The total eradication of kudzu is necessary to prevent re-growth. This requires continuous monitoring and thoroughness when treating. To prevent reestablishment, replanting after treatment is critical. It is important to prevent the production of viable seed and to destroy the plant’s ability to reproduce vegetatively.
A chemical herbicide, a 5% solution of Glyphosate, can be effective for small infestations such as stands growing up fences or poles. Reapplication is necessary.
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