Native to: Asia, portions of the Pacific Islands and northernmost Australia
An estimated 2 million acres of forest land in the southern United States is covered with kudzu. It was promoted as a forage crop and an ornamental plant when it was introduced to the U.S. at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. Many southern farmers were encouraged to plant kudzu for erosion control from the mid 1930’s to the mid 1950’s. In 1953, it was removed from the US Department of Agriculture’s list of permissible cover plants due to its recognition as a pest species. It is prohibited in Florida. Kudzu is on Florida’s prohibited noxious weed list.
Habit: climbing, semi-woody, perennial vine that can reach up to 100 feet in length.
Leaves: alternately arranged and compound with three broad leaflets up to 4 inches across. Leaflets may be entire or deeply 2-3 lobed with hairy margins.
Flowers: ½ inch long, purple, highly fragrant and borne in long hanging clusters.
Seeds: brown, hairy, flattened, seed pods that contain three to ten seeds.
Distribution in Florida: North to Central Florida, scattered reports in South Florida.
The spread of kudzu in the U.S. is thought to be primarily by runners, rhizomes, and vines that root at the nodes. It may also spread via seeds and can develop a massive tap root up to 18 cm or more in diameter and 2 m or more in length. As many as thirty vines can grow from a single root crown. Kudzu will grow over anything in its path (other plants, buildings, road signs) and eventually kill other plants it covers because it blocks out sunlight. It will also girdle stems and tree trunks, break branches, and uproot trees and shrubs through the masses of vegetation produced. Kudzu has been reported to grow roughly one foot per day once established.
Do not plant. Total eradication of kudzu is necessary to prevent re-growth. This requires continuous monitoring and thoroughness when treating. To prevent reestablishment, replanting after treatment is critical.
Young colonies can be eradicated in three to four years if plants are overgrazed or persistently cut back repeatedly during the hottest temperatures of summer. Close grazing for three to four years can totally eliminate kudzu when at least 80% of the vegetative growth is continuously removed by livestock. An old rule of thumb is 8 goats per acre stocking rate for kudzu control.
The massive root system and crowns must be destroyed for long term control of kudzu. Cut vines just above ground level and destroy all cut material. Close mowing every month for two growing seasons or repeated cultivation may be effective. Pre-burning, cutting, hand digging and disking will weaken the roots and aid in control when used in conjunction with herbicides.
Biological control agents are being investigated, but the introduction of asian soybean rust is thought to be very devastating to kudzu.
Foliar: 0.25%, Milestone, 0.5% Method, 2% Garlon 3A, 2% glyphosate product. Treat when actively growing. Follow-up treatments are necessary as resprouting occurs from root crowns.
Consult your local UF IFAS Extension for further assistance with management recommendations. Additional information can be found in the EDIS Publication Integrated Management of Non-Native Plants in Natural Areas of Florida.