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. Unfortunately, it quickly became a problem because of its rapid growth. The U.S. government did its best to spread kudzu throughout the South. And because it looked as if it covered everything in sight, few people realized that the vine often fizzled out just behind that roadside screen of green. As you walk closer to the vines you will locate intertwined clusters of them. 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. It is also native to the south Pacific region, including Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. Why is it invasive? In the decades that followed kudzu’s formal introduction at the 1876 World’s Fair Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, farmers found little use for a vine that could take years to establish, was nearly impossible to harvest and couldn’t tolerate sustained grazing by horses or cattle. As you walk closer to the vines you will locate intertwined clusters of them. Habitat: Kudzu is commonly found in disturbed areas such as roadsides, and prefers sandy areas with mild winters and hot summers. Kudzu is spreading in the South and control measures are required on large acreages. It can also be found in forests or meadows growing across the ground or attached to trees (pictured above). And though many sources continue to repeat the unsupported claim that kudzu is spreading at the rate of 150,000 acres a year—an area larger than most major American cities—the Forest Service expects an increase of no more than 2,500 acres a year. It cannot be over emphasized that total eradication of kudzu is necessary to prevent re-growth. It was conspicuous even at 65 miles per hour, reducing complex and indecipherable landscape details to one seemingly coherent mass. Conservation biologists are taking a closer look at the natural riches of the Southeastern United States, and they describe it as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, in many ways on par with tropical forests. The Japanese government constructed a beautiful garden filled with plants from their country. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. But somehow they hopped a ride across an ocean and ended up in Georgia in 2009. 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… The myth of kudzu has indeed swallowed the South, but the actual vine’s grip is far more tenuous. More than 70 million kudzu seedlings were grown in nurseries by the newly created Soil Conservation Service. The name is derived from the Japanese name for the plant East Asian arrowroot(Pueraria montana var. Kudzu can be controlled with glyphosate but it may take several years of … But its mythic rise and fall should alert us to the careless secondhand way we sometimes view the living world, and how much more we might see if we just looked a little deeper. They were half way across the world in Asia, their native region. Our species profiles include selected highly relevant resources for the species (organized by source), and access to all species related resources included on our site. Kudzu - or kuzu (クズ) - is native to Japan and southeast China. Kudzu: Where did it come from? http://www.invasive.org/eastern/midatlantic. Look for trifoliate leaves, or formations with 3 leaflets attached at each node. More important, it obscures the beauty of the South’s original landscape, reducing its rich diversity to a simplistic metaphor. 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.”. In addition, Kudzu’s large dark green leaves make a picturesque covereing for rough roadbanks and hillsides along Mississippi’s pa… Charles and Lillie Pleas were like many homesteaders when they dropped kudzu around their house in Chipley, Fla., in the early 1900s, … 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. Give a Gift. 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Advertising Notice Accessed 2006 Aug 21. http://www.invasive.org/eastern/midatlantic. They have alternate and compound leaves, with three wide leaflets with hairy margins. Railroad and highway developers, desperate for something to cover the steep and unstable gashes they were carving into the land, planted the seedlings far and wide. “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. Currently they have spread through several southeastern states, including North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. 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. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. |. Photo credit: DJ Moorhead/Univ. Why is it invasive? 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. The Civilian Conservation Corps and southern farmers planted kudzu to reduce soil erosion. Thirty years younger These bugs got busy right away laying eggs and migrating out farther across the south. Kudzu can be controlled with glyphosate but it may take several years of … 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. The plant was first brought to North America in 1876 to landscape a garden at the United States Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. K Britton/USDA FS (right) Keep up-to-date on: © 2020 Smithsonian Magazine. Today, it frequently appears on popular top-ten lists of invasive species. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, the use of combined management programs can control kudzu more quickly than individual methods in use today.. An invasive weed, kudzu was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s. You will … Kudzu. In 1998, Congress officially listed kudzu under the Federal Noxious Weed Act. 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. Invasive roses had covered more than three times as much forestland as kudzu. He was, as cultural geographer Derek Alderman suggests, an evangelist. 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]. Its growth is not “sinister,” as Willie Morris, the influential editor of Harper’s Magazine, described in his many stories and memoirs about life in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Kudzu Flower Photo: The vine produces a long stem of beautiful purple to redish-purple flowers. Kudzu has appeared larger than life because it’s most aggressive when planted along road cuts and railroad embankments—habitats that became front and center in the age of the automobile. Still, along Southern roads, the blankets of untouched kudzu create famous spectacles. They have alternate and compound leaves, with three wide leaflets with hairy margins. 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. The deep South, but the myth of kudzu bugs are a recent addition to the U.S. from.! By 1900 kudzu was available through mail order and sold mainly as an inexpensive livestock forage was brought... 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