The Vine That Ate the South


Kudzu is an extremely aggressive vine, and infests over 7 million acres in the southeastern United States and it’s estimated that kudzu is spreading to 120,000 acres each year(

The scientific name of Kudzu is Pueraria montana var. lobata (Invasive species  It’s vigorous growth and large leaves smother native plants: it’s vines kill trees through girdling and the added weight of the vines can lead to uprooting of trees (

It spreads relentlessly, mostly through soil movement and vegetative growth. Under ideal conditions it can grow a foot-a-day (Bugwood .org).

Two common names of this vine are:

“Mile-a-minute vine” and

“The vine that ate the south”.


Kudzu is native to Japan.  It has a woody stem, broad leaves and clusters of large purple flowers.  In Asia it is cultivated for it’s edible tubers and hemplike fiber.  Ground kudzu root (kuzu) has been a common ingredient in foods and medications for centuries.

Kudzu was introduced to the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennylvannia.  The large leaves and sweet-smelling blooms of kudzu, brought by the Japanese, caught the attention of American gardener’s who brought the plants home for ornamental purposes.

In the 30’s and 40’s, kudzu was propagated and promoted by the Soil Conservation Service as a means of holding soil on the swiftly eroding gullies of the deforested southern landscape.  Farmers were paid $8 an acre by the soil erosion service to plant kudzu, and greater than 1.2 million acres were planted under this subsidized program (

Kudzu is distributed south as far as Florida and as far west as eastern Oklahoma and Texas.  The most severe infestations occur in the Piedmont regions of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.  Only in the Southeastern United States is kudzu considered a serious pest ( ???

In his poem “Kudzu” James Dickey wrote “In Georgia, the legend says that you must  close your windows at night to keep it out of the house.”


Kudzu grows better in our South than it does in it’s native environment.  It’s natural insect enemies were not brought to the United States with it ( See reference to PBS documentary.

There is little spread by seed so expansion of kudzu patches occurs mainly by rooting of runners at nodes.  Adventitious rooting gives rise to large storage tubers that can survive repeated herbicide treatments over many years (Miller, 1985; Moorehead and Johnson 1996).

Kudzu is an invasive species which costs the United States $500 million per year in lost farm ground (

For successful long term control of kudzu , the extensive root system must be destroyed. Any remaining root crowns can lead to re-infestation of the area.  Mechanical methods include cutting the vines  just above ground level, and frequent mowing and cultivation.

Use of systemic herbicides is the most effective and practical method currently employed. The Federal Government is investigating biological control agents for kudzu (

Controlling Kudzu can be very costly. Conventional herbicide treatments can cost as much as $2,000/acre to treat kudzu over the course of several years.  One acre of kudzu an become an 11 acre patch in 10 years.  So, a $2,000 expense easily becomes $20,000 in expenses.  Thus, it pays to control kudzu (