Monday, July 4, 2011

Invasive Species: Kudzu

I know I've been doing these on animals, but I just have to include other invasive species too. If you would rather not read about a plant, I understand. Anyway:

Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) in South Carolina

Kudzu is a very aggressively growing vine. It was introduced to the United States in 1876 when it was advertised as a shade vine people could have grow on their porches to help with the heat of the south. It was available through mail-order catalogs and became popular. Though nobody knew it, the plant would soon take over. The vine is a very common sight throughout the area. It doesn't grow well where I am, possibly because it's very wet and close to sea level (twenty feet is high). However, it is an extremely common sight in north Georgia and also the higher elevations areas of the surrounding states.

Kudzu in Mississippi
Kudzu covers everything. It spreads rapidly over open ground and, though it is slowed by trees and other obstacles, it isn't by much. The sight at left is not unusual in areas where the plant occurs. Due to this, native plants are very often smothered by the vine and few can survive the attack. It has been encroaching on National Parks where it threatens the plant life there. It is difficult to control, with the best method being burning or grazing by animals which may not always be a viable options.
A kudzu flower

The plant is native to Asia, including China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Indo-China, and Oceania. Though it has been introduced to numerous countries, it is only really considered a pest in the eastern US. It is used as an ingredient in cooking and also for many other purposes in its native range including as forage for animals. In the United States, it has been used to help prevent erosion, but other plants are available and are much better options. Believe it or not, the flowers are actually quite pretty.

Kudzu is listed on the 100 World's Worst Invasives as #77.

Images are from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license or are copyright free: one, two, three

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