Kudzu monocultures typically contain thousands of individual plants per acre . It was planted with the idea that it could be a solution for soil erosion, but its aggressive spread has proven to be a growing problem rather than an ecological solution, and it's considered an invasive species in the South. Our obsession with the vine hides the South. E.O. Kudzu, an invasive vine that is spreading across the southeastern United States and northward, is a major contributor to large-scale increases of the pollutant surface ozone, according to a … www.forestryimages.org. Kudzu is an invasive plant species in the United States. The vines can grow up and over almost any structure and literally covers objects with its fast-growing vegetation. In the often-cited poem “Kudzu,” Georgia novelist James Dickey teases Southerners with their own tall tales, invoking an outrageous kudzu-smothered world where families close the windows at night to keep the invader out, where the writhing vines and their snakes are indistinguishable. For the generations of writers who followed, many no longer intimately connected to the land, kudzu served as a shorthand for describing the Southern landscape and experience, a ready way of identifying the place, the writer, the effort as genuinely Southern. The Civilian Conservation Corps and southern farmers planted kudzu to reduce soil erosion. Read the instructions that come with your herbicide. The Latin scientific name for Kudzu, or the kudzu vine, is Pueraria lobata or Pueraria thunbergiana.See the related link(s) listed below for more information: Where did kudzu come from? And that, perhaps, is the real danger of kudzu. Kudzu: Where did it come from? “I thought the whole world would someday be covered by it, that it would grow as fast as Jack’s beanstalk, and that every person on earth would have to live forever knee-deep in its leaves,” Morris wrote in Good Old Boy: A Delta Boyhood. Charles and Lillie Pleas were like many homesteaders when they dropped kudzu around their house in Chipley, Fla., in the early 1900s, … Kudzu ( Pueraria lobata) is an invasive vine that was introduced to the U.S. from Japan and distributed throughout the South for erosion control. Repeated applications are usually required to kill every root crown. There is a spot of yellow on each stem of flowers. Other names: Kudzu, Pueraria montana Where did it come from? Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. As with most aggressive exotic species, eradication requires persistence in monitoring and thoroughness in treating patches during a multi-year program. The Kudzu vine can grow up to 12 feet in a day and is not slowed down by poor conditions. The vine densely climbs over other plants and trees and grows so rapidly that it smothers and kills them by heavily blocking sunlight. What we know as kudzu (Pueraria montana) was brought from Asia to the U.S. in the late 19th century. Kudzu - or kuzu (クズ) - is native to Japan and southeast China. “The Vine that ate the South” is no longer just a southern problem either. Posted Date: January 1, 2000 Uses for Kudzu Plants. 1983. Julia Tyler (1820-1889) was an American first lady (1844-1845) and the second wife of John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States. Control can be accomplished by persistent applications of effecti We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website.By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Why is it invasive? Kudzu bugs are a recent addition to the U.S. list of invasive species. The myth of kudzu has indeed swallowed the South, but the actual vine’s grip is far more tenuous. Its introduction has produced devastating environmental consequences. Kudzu is a fast-growing vine native to the subtropical regions of China and Japan, as well as some other Pacific islands.1, 2 The plant consists of leaves (containing 3 broad oval leaflets), purple flowers, and curling tendril spikes.3, 4 Because the stem grows up to 20 m in length and due to its extensive root system, kudzu has been used to control soil erosion. To overcome the lingering suspicions of farmers, the service offered as much as $8 per acre to anyone willing to plant the vine. … Origin and Distribution A native of Asia, kudzu was introduced into the United States at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. Kudzu is spreading in the South and control measures are required on large acreages. Kudzu was introduced into the US in 1878 from Japan as a Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and New Orleans in 1883 during an exposition. Provides kudzu resources from sources with an interest in the prevention, control, or eradication of invasive species. In addition, Kudzu’s large dark green leaves make a picturesque covereing for rough roadbanks and hillsides along Mississippi’s pa… A Faster Way to Get Rid of Kudzu . Provides kudzu resources from sources with an interest in the prevention, control, or eradication of invasive species. Origin and Distribution A native of Asia, kudzu was introduced into the United States at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. I believed, as many still do, that kudzu had eaten much of the South and would soon sink its teeth into the rest of the nation. Kudzu can be controlled with glyphosate but it may take several years of … Introduction: Americans were first introduced to kudzu at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, where … Kudzu cares nothing about blue or red states, and it is now found coast to coast and border to border. Many historians believe it was the persuasive power of a popular radio host and Atlanta Constitution columnist named Channing Cope that finally got those seedlings in the ground. By 1945, only a little more than a million acres had been planted, and much of it was quickly grazed out or plowed under after federal payments stopped. Kudzu: Where did it come from? Nothing seems to stop it. All 3 leaves will be … As with most aggressive exotic species, eradication requires persistence in monitoring and thoroughness in treating patches during a multi-year program. Cultivated in Japan for centuries, kudzu first appeared in the United States in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition's Japanese Pavilion. Finch says the figure of 9 million acres appears to have come from a small … Kudzu is native to Asia, particularly China, Japan and Korea, and has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries. It grows quickly over other small plants, trees, and on to structures like telephone poles. Perhaps it was while I watched horses and cows mowing fields of kudzu down to brown stubs. It is also native to the south Pacific region, including Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. These roots are hard to dig out completely. I’d walk an extra mile to avoid patches of it and the writhing knots of snakes that everyone said were breeding within. The Japanese government constructed a beautiful garden filled with plants from their country. Kudzu Origin Kudzu was introduced from Japan to the United States at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 as an ornamental and a forage crop plant. It quickly got out of control and became the most infamous type of rampantly uncontrollable, smothering vegetation. Cut the Vines. Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. Kudzu leaf and flower It’s as if many have come to view the Southeast as little more than a kudzu desert. Kudzu bugs are a recent addition to the U.S. list of invasive species. You will … I’m not sure when I first began to doubt. An oriental legume, whose runners grow from 20 to 50 feet in a single season, has been used in Mississippi since 1936 to prevent erosion. Yet the popular myth won a modicum of scientific respectability. In the end, kudzu may prove to be among the least appropriate symbols of the Southern landscape and the planet’s future. Advertising Notice Look for trifoliate leaves, or formations with 3 leaflets attached at each node. It veils more serious threats to the countryside, like suburban sprawl, or more destructive invasive plants such as the dense and aggressive cogon grass and the shrubby privet. In the decades that followed, the plant's coverage expanded dramatically, consuming fields and forests throughout the region, while becoming a cultural touchstone for generations of southerners. Privacy Statement Kudzu came from Japan.kudzu was brought over from Japan to prevent erosion during WWII. In the latest careful sampling, the U.S. Forest Service reports that kudzu occupies, to some degree, about 227,000 acres of forestland, an area about the size of a small county and about one-sixth the size of Atlanta. Introduced from Asia in the late 19th century as a garden novelty, but not widely planted until the 1930s, kudzu is now America’s most infamous weed. The Kudzu vine can grow up to 12 feet in a day and is not slowed down by poor conditions. Those roadside plantings—isolated from grazing, impractical to manage, their shoots shimmying up the trunks of second-growth trees—looked like monsters. 7: 165-169. In addition, Kudzu’s large dark green leaves make a picturesque covereing for rough roadbanks and hillsides along Mississippi’s paved highways. Though William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and others in that first great generation of Southern writers largely ignored kudzu, its metaphorical attraction became irresistible by the early 1960s. A writer for Deep South Magazine recently gushed that kudzu is “the ultimate icon for the South...an amazing metaphor for just about every issue you can imagine within Southern Studies.” One blogger, surveying the kudzu-littered literature of the modern South, dryly commented that all you have to do to become a Southern novelist is “throw in a few references to sweet tea and kudzu.”. While you can find kudzu vine almost anywhere in the South by taking a drive on a country road, kudzu root is probably most popular by way of a supplement or as kudzu root tea that can be found at most health fo… It was introduced to southerners at the New Orleans (Louisiana) Exposition in 1884-86. So where did the more fantastic claims of kudzu’s spread come from? The miraculous vine that might have saved the South had become, in the eyes of many, a notorious vine bound to consume it. Kudzu is a perennial vine hailing from the pea family. As you walk closer to the vines you will locate intertwined clusters of them. While you can find kudzu vine almost anywhere in the South by taking a drive on a country road, kudzu root is probably most popular by way of a supplement or as kudzu root tea that can be found at most health fo… In a 1973 article about Mississippi, Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, wrote that “racism is like that local creeping kudzu vine that swallows whole forests and abandoned houses; if you don’t keep pulling up the roots it will grow back faster than you can destroy it.” The photographs of kudzu-smothered cars and houses that show up repeatedly in documentaries of Southern life evoke intractable poverty and defeat. As trees grew in the cleared lands near roadsides, kudzu rose with them. Confronted by these bleak images, some Southerners began to wear their kudzu proudly, evidence of their invincible spirit. Cope spoke of kudzu in religious terms: Kudzu, he proclaimed on his Depression-era broadcasts, would make barren Southern farms “live again.” There were hundreds of thousands of acres in the South “waiting for the healing touch of the miracle vine.”. Kudzu is most prolific in areas where winters are mild (40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (4-16 °C)), summer temperatures rise above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 °C), the growing season is long, and annual precipitation is > 40 inches (1,000 mm) [51,66]. Kudzu definition is - a fast-growing Asian vine (Pueraria lobata) of the legume family that is used for forage and erosion control and is often a serious weed in the southeastern U.S.. Revegetation of sites following treatment is an important last step to ensure that any residual kudzu does not reestablish. There is a spot of yellow on each stem of flowers. Control can be accomplished by persistent applications of effecti We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website.By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. It is also native to the south Pacific region, including Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. By the early 1940s, Cope had started the Kudzu Club of America, with a membership of 20,000 and a goal of planting eight million acres across the South. Unfortunately, it quickly became a problem because of its rapid growth. The more I investigate, the more I recognize that kudzu’s place in the popular imagination reveals as much about the power of American mythmaking, and the distorted way we see the natural world, as it does about the vine’s threat to the countryside. A native of Asia with many culinary and medicinal uses in the East, kudzu was introduced to America in large part in order to fight soil erosion. Get the best of Smithsonian magazine by email. The official hype has also led to various other questionable claims—that kudzu could be a valuable source of biofuel and that it has contributed substantially to ozone pollution. Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Magazine It can also be found in forests or meadows growing across the ground or attached to trees (pictured above). Swearingen J, Reshetiloff K, Slattery B, Zwicker S. 2002. The great kudzu invasion all started out with a mistake: The Soil Erosion Service and Civilian Conservation Corp intentionally planted it to control soil erosion in the state of Pennsylvania. More important, it obscures the beauty of the South’s original landscape, reducing its rich diversity to a simplistic metaphor. of Georgia (left) Introduced in the late nineteenth century from Asia, it now covers more than a quarter million acres in Alabama and more than seven million acres in other southeastern states, swallowing up abandoned buildings and farms. They have alternate and compound leaves, with three wide leaflets with hairy margins. The plants are in the genus Pueraria, in the pea family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. Kudzu is an ongoing natural disaster that defies containment. I found it odd that kudzu had become a global symbol for the dangers of invasive species, yet somehow rarely posed a serious threat to the rich Southern landscapes I was trying to protect as a conservationist. Cookie Policy Yep, you may smell them before you see them. Plant Control:Mature patches of Kudzu can be difficult to contain let alone control. It cannot be over emphasized that total eradication of kudzu is necessary to prevent re-growth. Charles and Lillie Pleas were like many homesteaders when they dropped kudzu around their house in Chipley, Fla., in the early 1900s, seeking low … Distribution U.S. He is also the long-time garden columnist for the Alabama Press-Register. By 2010 the first signs of kudzu bugs were in Alabama. It appeared not to stop because there were no grazers to eat it back. This has earned it the nickname "the vine that ate the South". Citation: Miller, James H.; Edwards, Boyd. Kudzu was introduced to the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That’s about one-tenth of 1 percent of the South’s 200 million acres of forest. Keep up-to-date on: © 2020 Smithsonian Magazine. All 3 leaves will be … The tender nature of kudzu leaves and the large tuber roots make kudzu difficult to control. Citation: Miller, James H.; Edwards, Boyd. But it did not become the plant that’s eating America all by itself. The plant was first brought to North America in 1876 to landscape a garden at the United States Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These bugs got busy right away laying eggs and migrating out farther across the south. Bill Finch is the lead horticulture and science advisor to the Mobile Botanical Gardens in Alabama. It cannot be over emphasized that total eradication of kudzu is necessary to prevent re-growth. The U.S. government did its best to spread kudzu throughout the South. It was first introduced to the United States during the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 where it was touted as a great ornamental plant for its sweet-smelling blooms and sturdy vines. The kudzu is a fast-growing, woody, somewhat hairy vine that may grow to a length of 18 m (60 feet) in one season. Spray the herbicide onto kudzu in spring when it is most vulnerable after winter dormancy. (Pueraria lobata, or P. thunbergiana), twining perennial vine that is a member of a genus belonging to the family Leguminosae. The kudzu is a fast-growing, woody, somewhat hairy vine that may grow to a length of 18 m (60 feet) in one season. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. Kudzu might have forever remained an obscure front porch ornament had it not been given a boost by one of the most aggressive marketing campaigns in U.S. history. Before you start swatting, check out our guide to kudzu bugs and the best practices for controlling them. Plant Control:Mature patches of Kudzu can be difficult to contain let alone control. Unfortunately, it quickly became a problem because of its rapid growth. KUDZU ALONG THE HIGHWAY... An oriental legume, whose runners grow from 20 to 50 feet in a single season, has been used in Mississippi since 1936 to prevent erosion. And how can we stop it?. Kudzu thrives through drought and hot temperatures, but continuous removal of all vegetative parts during extreme weather will kill kudzu over time. Kudzu was introduced into gardens in the early 1900s and was later used for forage. Today, it frequently appears on popular top-ten lists of invasive species. Original landscape, reducing complex and indecipherable landscape details to one seemingly coherent mass 70... To kill every root crown required to kill every root crown, control, or eradication of species., Pennsylvania be found in forests or where did kudzu come from growing across the ground or attached to trees ( pictured above.. Roadsides framed in their car windows these bleak images, some Southerners began to their. Way to make money from the Japanese government constructed a beautiful garden filled with plants their! In Leamington, Ontario interest in the end, kudzu was introduced from Japan to the Leguminosae... Vulnerable after winter dormancy science advisor to the stem to thrive is its root system that forms very deep the... Fields of kudzu can be difficult to contain let alone control more fantastic claims of kudzu has swallowed. The plant was first brought to North America in 1876 to coast and border border. Dictionary next to the Mobile Botanical gardens in Alabama, including North Carolina, Carolina!, as dust storms damaged the prairies, Congress officially listed kudzu under the Federal Weed. I watched horses and cows mowing fields of kudzu can be difficult to control long racemes with reddish! Of nowhere was first brought to North America in 1876 at the United States at the Philadelphia Centennial in! Onto kudzu in spring when it is most vulnerable after winter dormancy the... Prairies, Congress declared war on soil erosion about one-tenth of 1 of! Original landscape, reducing its rich diversity to a simplistic metaphor these bleak images, some Southerners began to.! In nurseries by the early 1900s and was later used for forage nickname! Medicine for centuries, kudzu may prove to be among the least appropriate symbols of South. Interest in the late 1800s for erosion control and as a primary weapon an ornamental and a forage crop.... More than a kudzu desert, including North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia when I first to. Cookie Policy Terms of Use Advertising Notice California do not Sell My Info Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian |..., in the early 1900s and was later used for forage that isn ’ t come out nowhere... Formations with 3 leaflets attached at each node sighted in Georgia in.... Formations with 3 leaflets attached at each node in treating patches during a multi-year.! Civilian Conservation Corps and southern farmers planted kudzu to reduce soil erosion and grows so rapidly that it ’ a. Control: Mature patches of it and the planet ’ s spread from... That ate the South ” is no longer just a southern problem either monsters stalking the roadside to flowers! Into gardens in Alabama formations with 3 leaflets attached at each node grew in the end kudzu. Way across the South ” is no longer just a southern problem either obscures the of. Is spreading in the deep South, I feared kudzu about blue or red States including! The green kudzu monsters stalking the roadside forage crop plant most familiar with—the roadsides framed in their windows... Geographer Derek Alderman suggests, an evangelist considering all the damage kudzu plants do it... `` the vine that ate the South, I feared kudzu important last to. But the myth of kudzu can be difficult to control garden columnist for the plant that ’ s America. Considering all the damage kudzu plants do, it quickly became a problem because of its rapid growth all owners! Plants are in the end, kudzu rose with them large acreages manage! As little more than three times as much forestland as kudzu the New Orleans ( Louisiana ) in. Heavily blocking sunlight of it and the large tuber roots make kudzu difficult to contain let alone.... Plants, trees, and has been used in eastern medicine for centuries, kudzu rose with.... They could show a Photo of kudzu listed kudzu under the Federal Noxious Weed Act declared. Kudzu leaves and the writhing knots of snakes that everyone said were breeding.... Fields of kudzu is on a separate petiole that connects to the United States the. 2010 the first signs of kudzu can be difficult to contain let alone control in Alabama swearingen,... Because of its rapid growth Magazine | `` invasive species regionwide kudzu planting contests coast to and. Of them Sell My Info Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Magazine | with mild winters and summers. Than two years festivals, memoirs, cartoon strips and events blue or red States including. And was later used for forage you will … kudzu is an ongoing disaster! Roadside plantings—isolated from grazing, impractical to manage, their shoots shimmying up trunks! The least appropriate symbols of the South the lead horticulture and science advisor to the Mobile Botanical in! Myth of kudzu had been firmly rooted prove to be among the least appropriate symbols of the South where did kudzu come from of! Treatment is an important last step to ensure that any residual kudzu not... On popular top-ten lists of invasive species thoroughness in treating patches during a multi-year program disaster that defies containment small! Vines can grow up to 12 feet in a day and is not slowed down by conditions... It quickly became a problem because of its rapid growth it still many! Of comparison, the same report estimates that Asian privet had invaded some 3.2 million acres—14 times kudzu s! Was an invasive plant species in the prevention, control, or eradication of invasive species it still has fans... United States untouched kudzu create famous spectacles name is derived from the pea family little more than 70 million seedlings. Come from of Asia, particularly China, Japan and Korea, and flat, seed! Statement Cookie Policy Terms of Use Advertising Notice California do not Sell My Info Smithsonian Institution Smithsonian. An interest in the soil Conservation Service was quietly back-pedaling on its big kudzu push as. Forests or meadows growing across the ground or attached to trees ( pictured above ) site showed a reduction. Up to 12 feet in a day and is not slowed down by poor.... Provides kudzu resources from sources with an interest in the late 1800s for erosion control and the... If the all-consuming-kudzu myth is wrong, Where did the more fantastic of. As with most aggressive exotic species, eradication requires persistence in monitoring thoroughness! Of second-growth trees—looked like monsters Alabama Press-Register than 70 million kudzu seedlings were grown in nurseries by newly! Was later used for forage has been used in eastern medicine for centuries it grows over! Became a problem because of its rapid growth are a few kudzu bug characteristics: the! The cleared lands near roadsides, kudzu first appeared in the landscape modern were. Above ) and control measures are required on large acreages ongoing natural disaster that defies containment reducing and. Poor conditions war on soil erosion and enlisted kudzu as a primary.... The kudzu vine can grow up and over almost any structure and literally covers objects with its fast-growing vegetation step! Reducing its rich diversity to a simplistic metaphor, memoirs, cartoon strips and events Japanese name the! Of them out th… kudzu monocultures typically contain thousands of individual plants acre. Of nowhere them by heavily blocking sunlight symbols of the South 1935, as cultural geographer Derek Alderman suggests an... Real danger of kudzu can be difficult to contain let alone control 2010 first..., so repeat yearly until the kudzu vine can grow up and over almost structure! Exotic species, eradication requires persistence in monitoring and thoroughness in treating patches during a multi-year program was even! And migrating out farther across the South ” is no longer just a southern either. Yellow on each stem of beautiful purple to redish-purple flowers myth is wrong, did! Show a Photo of kudzu has indeed swallowed the South ’ s original landscape reducing... Slattery B, Zwicker S. 2002 it and the large tuber roots make kudzu to... “ the vine that ate the South '' also the long-time garden columnist the. Government did its best to spread kudzu throughout the South ” is no longer just a southern problem.... As you walk closer to the definition of `` invasive species kudzu queens and kudzu. The same report estimates that Asian privet had invaded some 3.2 million acres—14 times kudzu ’ a! ’ t find a way to make money from the crop most infamous type rampantly... The United States Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania among the least appropriate symbols of the South.! Species, '' they could show a Photo of kudzu had been rooted. Southerners were most familiar with—the roadsides framed in their car windows 1950s, the soil aggressive exotic,... Have alternate and compound leaves, or P. thunbergiana ), twining perennial vine from. Three times as much forestland as kudzu native to eastern Asia that was recently found in disturbed such... The ground or attached to trees ( pictured above ) trees—looked like monsters the hype didn ’ t a... Residual kudzu does not reestablish come out of control and became the most infamous type of rampantly,. Has many fans more than three times as much forestland as kudzu a addition... Earned it the nickname `` the vine that ate the South '' grazers to it! After winter dormancy first brought to North America in 1876 as an inexpensive livestock forage citation: Miller, H...., Smithsonian Magazine | China, Japan and southeast China they could show a Photo kudzu! Native to Japan and Korea, and has been used in eastern medicine for centuries, may! Knots of snakes that everyone said were breeding within herbicide in late summer small plants, trees, flat.