Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) is a perennial vine that is well adapted to the southern and southeastern United States. The plant is native to Japan and southeast China, and was first introduced into the U.S. at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. From the early 1930s to the mid-1950s, public and private landowners were encouraged by the Soil Conservation Service to plant kudzu to reduce soil erosion. Kudzu currently infests about 7.4 million acres in the U.S. and occupies about 123,000 new acres annually.
Kudzu is well established in the eastern and southern portions of the U.S. In the West, it was reported and subsequently eradicated in Clark County, Washington in 2011; and is reported in four counties in Oregon (EDDmapS 2019).
PHOTO BY CHRIS EVANS, UNIV. OF ILLINOIS, BUGWOOD.ORG
Once established, kudzu grows at a rate of one foot per day with mature vines as long as 100 feet. Known as “the vine that ate the South”, kudzu can easily overtake trees, abandoned homes, cars and telephone poles.
DISTRIBUTION OF KUDZU IN THE UNITED STATES (USDA PLANTS 2019)
Management information with herbicides is available at the following sources:
Kudzu: History, Physiology, and Ecology Combine to Make a Major Ecosystem Threat http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07352680490505150
Science News: Invasive kudzu is major factor in surface ozone pollution, study shows: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100517172302.htm
USDA, NRCS. 2019. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Available online: plants.usda.gov (accessed June 12, 2019).
Celestine Duncan contributed to this article.
Published January 2017; reviewed and updated in 2019