Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In Celebration of the Vining Weeds of Colorado

By Linda McMulkin, CSU Extension-Pueblo County
I just got back from the Mississippi Delta where I was introduced to kudzu (Pueraria montana).  For years, I’ve heard stories about this invasive plant growing over parked cars and killing the trees it climbs, but it took seeing to believe. 

Kudzu has taken over a road cut on US 49 in
Phillips County, Arkansas.  It is trying
 to cover an abandoned house and has
 smothered every plant from the road to
 the top of the hill.  It's invading
more territory by crawling
 up the cell phone towers.
The area I visited is on the Mississippi River in eastern Arkansas, about an hour south of Memphis.  There are many cotton, soybean, and corn fields in the area, and we observed the crops and harvest techniques on our sightseeing drives on both sides of the Mississippi River.  Along the road, there were unfarmed areas where a mix of trees, shrubs, and grasses thrived.  But interspersed with the fields and natural areas were kudzu patches of a green so thick and uniform you could not see what used to grow underneath.  The vines covered everything, including the tallest trees, smothering every plant underneath.

Using my handy smartphone, I looked up details about Pueraria montana and found that the plant is native to Asia, was introduced as an ornamental and for erosion control, is in the Fabaceae (Pea) family, has an extensive root system that is the major source of new infestations, fixes nitrogen and can be used to break up and enrich heavy soils (please don’t try this at home), and is on the noxious weed list in 21 states (and present in 8 others where it isn’t on the noxious list).  I realized I had seen the plant on other trips, just not covering such enormous areas.

In Colorado, we often complain about vining plants such as bindweed, Chinese clematis, Virginia creeper, or calbazilla growing over fences or plants in our landscapes.  After seeing kudzu at work, I’ll think twice about criticizing even the most obnoxious weed in my landscape.  I’ll embrace my bindweed patches and celebrate that kudzu hasn’t come to live with us. 


  1. Good ol' kudzu! I worked for a summer at a resort in Georgia and it was the first time I had seen the aggressive beast. I was told it could grow up to 12" a DAY in good conditions. A foot a day! I don't know if this is true, but it absolutely smothered trees.

    1. And those small towns in the Mississippi Delta can't afford enough herbicide to even dent it's growth. Scary to see.

    2. Kudzu has 60 medicinal uses, including detoxing the liver. North Carolina Experiment Station studies the management of kudzu and has found black plastic and solar energy can contain kudzu in one season by heat. It won't grow back. for more information.

  2. Nice blog post. the last few decades have seen some major changes in the rules and regulations as well as the way people react to things and i think it is a result of one such attitude