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.
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
|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.
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.