How did it get here?
to Japan, kudzu was brought to the United States in 1876
for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where it was
promoted as an ornamental plant for gardens and food for
goats, cows, and pigs. To control erosion, it was planted
in the South from 1935 through the mid-1950s. The United
States Department of Agriculture removed kudzu from its
list of recommended ground cover plants in 1953, when
it became recognized as an aggressive nuisance. The agency
listed kudzu as a noxious weed in 1972. Infestations are
particularly heavy in the Deep South, and in Florida it
is invading the Everglades.
How to spot
is a vine that can grow very long—from 32 to 100
feet. A kudzu patch looks like a uniformly colored blanket
of dark-green leaves, swallowing everything in its path
both horizontally and vertically. The leaves, grouped
in threes, are 3 to 10 inches long and can have as many
as three lobes.
They have hairy undersides. Depending on the climate and
sun exposure, kudzu may flower from late July to September.
It bears hanging clusters of purple blossoms that smell
like grapes. Seedpods, which appear later, are hairy and
bean-like. In winter or after a hard frost, kudzu is a
mass of brown vines with leaves withered or absent. In
very warm areas, leaves may be evergreen.
- Disturbed areas, including roadsides, abandoned yards,
fields, forest edges, and vacant lots.
- Deep, well-drained, loamy soil.
- Grows best in climates with mild winters, hot summers
above 80 degrees F, and abundant rainfall, but can withstand
is in the legume family. It spreads vegetatively and,
to a much lesser extent, from seed borne in pods. In summer,
kudzu can grow as much as 1 foot per day. As many as 30
vines may grow from the root
crown, and runners
sprout from nodes
every 1 to 2 feet along the vines. With enough sun, kudzu
may flower from late July to September, after which seedpods
form. It may die back to its roots during cold winters.
Look-alikes and how to distinguish
- Large specimens of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)—lack
obviously hairy leaves and stems.
- Crown vetch (Securigera varia)—leaves
are finer with 15 to 20 leaflets
per leaf; profuse pink flowers.
- Round-leafed beggar’s tick (Desmodium rotundifolium)—rarely
exceeds 5 feet in length; leaflets not usually longer
than 2¾ inches.
Why is this plant a problem?
kills native plants by smothering them and blocking their
sunlight. Climbing vines can girdle
trees, and their weight can uproot trees.
Loss of trees and plants to kudzu threatens agricultural
and timber production.
Chapter about kudzu in Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic
and Exotic Species of North America
(University of Georgia and partners)
Information, images, and free online publications about
Nature Conservancy’s Invasive Species Initiative
What you can do to combat invasive species, what species
you might find in your yard, and other helpful resources