Adapted from: D.J. Moorhead and G.K. Douce for Forest Encyclopedia Network
Kudzu is a climbing deciduous vine capable of reach lengths of over 100 feet. The stems can grow to 4 inches in diameter and the large semi-woody roots can reach depths of 3 to 16 feet (Miller 2003). Kudzu is easily identified because it grows in a large dense mat of vines, often totally covering other vegetation, structures, or land. Leaves are made up of three large broad leaflets, up to 4 inches wide (Fig. 1). Purple flowers with yellow centers occur in small clusters. Flowering occurs in June and July.
Kudzu is native to Asia and was first introduced into America in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition (Swearingen et al. 2002). It was widely planted throughout the eastern United States in an attempt to control erosion. Currently it can be found at low elevations throughout much of the southern Appalachians. Kudzu’s preferred habitat is open, disturbed areas such as roads, right-of-ways, forest edges, and old fields. It is an aggressive invader capable of growing over 1 foot a day in prime conditions. If left unchecked, kudzu can grow over and smother other vegetation including trees (Fig. 2). A common site in the southern Appalachians is a hillside or old farmstead that has been completely covered by kudzu, with only the shapes of the trees and buildings remaining visible.
Adapted for eXtension.org by Thomas DeGomez, University of Arizona
Miller, J.H. 2003. In: Nonnative invasive plants of southern forests: a field guide for identification and control. Asheville, NC: U.S.Department of Agriculture,Forest Service,Southern Research Station: 93p.
Swearingen, J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker. 2002. Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 82 p.
Nonnative Plants of Southern Forests-Kudzu
Related to Kudzu:
- Invasive Species and Biodiversity
- Invasive Forest Plants
- Invasive Species and Climate
- Diversity in the Forest Understory