The plant is known by the scientific name Pueraria montana. Which is a member of the pea family known as Fabaceae. It is a subtropical plant and does well in areas with warm temperatures. The plant thrives on loam soil that is well-known for its fertility. Other common names of the invasive plant are foot-a-night vine, ko hemp and the vine that ate the south. The name “the vine that ate the south” was derived from its invasive nature after introduction in the USA. This plant is a known invasive, and in this article we will talk about how to get rid of kudzu in your yard.
The origin of kudzu is Asia, Japan. It was introduced to the United States in the 1800s. The plant was initially introduced as a means of controlling soil erosion.
How to identify kudzu
Kudzu grows fast and it has a hairy vine. It grows to an average of 60 feet. It has compound leaves that are large and broad with a hairy edge. The leaves can extend to a length of 4 inches wide. The flowers are purple about half an inch long.
They flower during late summer. Flowers appear in the third year of their growth. They have a high fragrance and are borne in hanging clusters. The flowers bloom between the month of July and October. This results in the production of brown seed pods that are hairy and flat containing three to ten seeds per pod. The pods are two inches long. The seeds mature in between September to October.
The leaves are alternately arranged, each branch has three leaves. The leaves have two or three lobes. The stem of the first-year vines have a diameter of half an inch while the old vines have a diameter of four inches. The old vines have a soft texture.
Kudzu has deep roots ranging between three to nine feet. These deep roots make it difficult to get rid of kudzu completely. The roots are useful for the storage of carbohydrates necessary for the growth of the plant. It has tuberous roots with an average diameter of seven inches. It grows through forming a node at the roots when the veins get into contact with the soil. The roots extend to form crowns.
Natural habitat of kudzu
Kudzu is common in sub-tropical areas. It grows well in loam soil. Its deep roots ensure that it survives during the dry seasons. Mostly for its growth, it prefers areas that have sunshine and are open such as the edges of the forest or just by the roadside. Mild winters are good for their optimum growth. It can survive under the shade or exposure to sunlight. It can climb on other vegetation to access sunlight. Leaves arrangement aids in the optimum use of sunlight.
Medicinal and food value
The plant contains useful chemicals that help in the control of high blood pressure, pains in the chest and heart failure. It has chemicals that treat alcoholism and is used to alleviate hangover, headache and stomach pains. It can also be used for weight loss and increasing the urge to exercise.
Kudzu can be administered orally for the treatment of diabetes poliomyelitis and other traumatic injuries. Chemicals in kudzu are believed to increase blood flow in both the brain and heart. It is also used in treating signs of menopause. However, you should seek the assistance of a health professional before using the plant for medication.
Other uses of kudzu
Kudzu is considered a delicacy. It is used as an ingredient in several dishes. In the United States, it is sold as jellies and syrup. The plant is used by artisans to make ornamental items like sculptures and handcrafts.
You can also use the plant for animal feeds. It can be baled for future use. There are also cases in which kudzu is used to control erosion.
Why is kudzu invasive?
On flowering, kudzu forms seed pods that contain between two to ten seeds. These seeds are dispersed by the wind making dispersion vigorous from one area to another. During rainy seasons, the seeds are dispersed by water and they can be carried along by the running waters to various areas. Animals help in the dispersion of the seeds through contact with fur as the animals move along. Humans carry the seeds of kudzu under their shoes or through the seeds attaching themselves on clothes.
After flowering, kudzu spreads through the growth of its vines. Of the seeds that are produced in the seed pods, only two or three seeds are healthy. These seeds can germinate even after being dormant on the ground for several years. This makes it difficult to get rid of kudzu.
Kudzu does well in any type of soil. The roots keep sprouting new crowns which ensure that reproduction is quick. They grow deep and are thick for storage of carbohydrates, and can tap water from deep in the ground which is an adaption for surviving in adverse conditions.
The plant has few if any predators in diseases and pests. This is helpful for it to outdo natural vegetation. It can block other plants from getting sunlight by growing over them resulting in the death of the native plants.
Disadvantages of kudzu
The plant can spread extensively by growing on rough surfaces and growing on other plants. It releases high amounts of nitrogen which in turn reduces the productivity of the soil. The high amounts of nitrogen in the soil kill other native plants and enhance the growth of ko hemp. Mature vines can smother shrubs and trees, denying them access to sunlight and leading to death. This is why many want to get rid of kudzu in their yard.
Kudzu attacks farm crops such as soybeans by spreading diseases and pests to them. Its ability to climb over gardens can bring down houses and structures that are abandoned. Over a period of time, it can result in power outages through damage to electric poles since the plant is dense and heavy. Its deep growing roots deprive the soil water which kills the ecosystem.
Forest economists have attributed their losses to the invasion of the kudzu plant. This is because the plant climbs over the trees hindering them from getting sunlight and other minerals required for their growth.
Control methods of kudzu
Ko hemp grows fast and extensively making it a challenge to control. Kudzu should be controlled as a way of maintaining the ecosystem. Complete eradication is important to preserve the ecosystem and allow the growth of other native plants.
The process of eradication requires consistent monitoring and patience. You should control the establishment of the plant in your homestead. In the instance where it is required for medicinal value or for making ornaments, it should be regulated so that it does not extend to other areas. Control ensures that it does not grow extensively. It is also important that landowners work together with the authorities to prevent the plant from reestablishing.
You can control kudzu through the regular cutting of the leaves and stems. The uprooting of the plant is the surest way of controlling kudzu in lightly infested areas. After cutting or uprooting the plants, you should wrap them in polythene bags to prevent sprouting.
How to get rid of kudzu?
There are basically 3 methods to use to get rid of kudzu. Either Mechanically, Chemically or Biologically:
This method is preferably used in areas where the plant has been discovered to prevent its extensive growth to other areas. The most common methods of mechanical removal of kudzu include uprooting the roots, cutting the leaves and stems. The process requires constant monitoring to ensure the roots are uprooted immediately after spotting to prevent reestablishing.
Cutting kudzu vines prevents growth. However, this physical method is only suitable in a small-scale region. Digging and uprooting are only favorable for young plants rather than the old plants. For the old plants, the roots will have grown extensively downwards and may be difficult to uproot. Also, it is easier to dig out new plants than the old which are firmly held on the ground.
You should get rid of kudzu from the area and dispose of it in plastic bags to prevent reestablishing. Kudzu can be removed through grazing. Farm animals can graze on the plants to reduce the vegetative cover and eventually the plants die. Kudzu grows fast and extends mostly during the night. For houses that are infested with this plant, you should ensure that you keep windows closed at night preventing the plant from growing inside the house.
Chemical methods are preferably used over a wide area where the plant has grown extensively. The use of herbicides to kill invasive plants is regulated because the chemicals affect other living organisms.
Using chemicals as a means of removal is limited to the leaves and the stems. Therefore, the herbicide may not reach the roots resulting in a reemergence over time. You should use chemical methods during the dry season for optimum effectiveness. This process is done repeatedly to prevent the roots from sprouting.
The use of herbicides is restricted and is only recommended for use by a certified vegetation control professional. The regulation ensures the protection of non-target organisms. It is advisable to use the herbicides away from water bodies to avoid contamination.
It is advisable to spray during summer from March to June. During this period, the plants are vulnerable. Spot spraying is effective when a kudzu plant is spotted growing. This limits the extensive use of the herbicide.
For young plants, a few rounds of treatment may be effective. However, for mature and old plants, the treatment has to be done through the years to get rid of kudzu completely. It is advisable not to use herbicides to control kudzu in instances where the plant has climbed over trees or fences as it will harm trees or the fence.
It is important to use protective gear when handling herbicides. They can cause severe damage to the skin. The use of chemicals kills organisms in the soil and water bodies. You should also face away from the wind to avoid blowing the chemical towards you.
This method involves using insects that feed on the plant as a way of controlling growth. Bean plataspids are dark green insects that feed on kudzu. They are known scientifically as Megacopta cribraria. The insects feed on the vines of kudzu and are capable of reducing its growth rampantly. The bean eating plataspid mostly develops on kudzu. It is most active during spring.
The insect uses its mouth to pierce and suck sap from the veins of the plant. The results are loss of moisture and nutrients from the plant. The excretion of the insect cause patches on the leaves of kudzu making it difficult for photosynthesis, as a result, the plant dies.
The use of bean plataspids has limitations. The insects are considered a nuisance by many homeowners and are actively in the process of eliminating it. Chemical control is on the rise which intends to reduce the insect. Bean plataspids also feed on other bean plants such as the soya bean giving farmers a reason to eradicate it. It’s also highly affected by chemicals used to control other pests.
Although this process is environmental-friendly, it takes time to control the growth of kudzu, especially where it has grown extensively. As a result, the effects of using the kudzu bug could be experienced over many years as compared to other methods of eradication.
Kudzu has many medicinal and ornamental benefits. However, its invasive tendency makes it a plant worth controlling.
The vine that ate the south is fast-growing and it is estimated to grow at the rate of half an inch daily. This plant has adverse effects on the ecosystem such as killing the native vegetation. When it climbs on other plants it blocks them from accessing sunlight making it difficult for them to make food through photosynthesis and as a result, they die. You can get rid of kudzu biologically using bean plataspids. You can also use mechanical or chemical controlling methods to remove the plant.
- Florida exotic pest council: Puerperia Montana– https://www.fleppc.org/ID_book/pueraria%20montana.pdf
- Mississipi state facts state on kudzu https://www.gri.msstate.edu/research/ipams/FactSheets/Kudzu.pdf
- Do it yourself naturally: uses of kudzu and other invasive plants: https://www.diynatural.com/kudzu-invasive-plants/
- Weed Action Coalition of the Hickory Nut Gorge: Description of Pueraria Montana http://www.wachng.org/Documents/Pueraria2016.pdf
- Southern Research Station: Can the kudzu bug stop the vine that ate the south https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/compass/2012/07/10/can-the-kudzu-bug-stop-the-vine-that-ate-the-south/