COMMON NAME

Kudzu


FULL SCIENTIFIC NAME

Pueraria montana var lobata (Willd.) Maesen & S. Almeida


FAMILY NAME COMMON

Pea family


FAMILY SCIENTIFIC NAME

Pueraria montana var lobata


IMAGES


Leaves

Incursion

Close-up of leaves and pods

Leaves and flowers

NOMENCLATURE/SYNONYMS

Synonyms: Pueraria montana (Lour.) Merr.
Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi
Pueraria thunbergiana (Sieb. and Zucc.) Benth.


DESCRIPTION

Botanical Glossary

Pueraria montana var. lobata is a semi-woody, rapidly growing perennial vine with stems 2.5 cm (2 in.) thick. It can grow to heights of 10-30 m (32-100 ft.). The dark green leaves are compound, subovate to subrotund, 10-15 cm (4-6 in.) in length, and the leaflets can be 2-3 lobed. They are hairy beneath. The grape-scented flowers are each 2-2.5 cm (0.8-1 in.) long, and are borne in long, hanging clusters. The pedicels are densely sericeous, and the corollas are reddish purple. Pueraria montana flowers rarely, and only after the plant is at least three years old. The fruits are brown, flattened pods that are covered with brown hairs . Each pod can contain 3-10 hard seeds. These pods are 3.1 cm (8 in.) in length and 0.8 cm (0.3 in.) wide. Pueraria montana var. lobata has fleshy tap roots that can reach 18 cm (7 in.) in width and grow to 3.75 m (9 ft.) deep. These roots can weigh up to 180 kg (400 lbs.). Pueraria montana var. lobata is the variety thought to be most common in the Northeast. Page References Gleason & Cronquist 305, Holmgren 287, Magee & Ahles 683. See reference section below for full citations.


SIMILAR SPECIES

None


REPRODUCTIVE/DISPERSAL MECHANISMS

Pueraria montana var. lobata spreads primarily via runners and rhizomes. Seed is also a means of dispersal, but many of the seeds in the pods are not fertile.


DISTRIBUTION

Pueraria montana var. lobata is native to Japan. In the United States it is located from Massachusetts to Florida and west to Nebraska and Texas. It is also found in the states of Oregon and Washington. In New England it is currently restricted to a few sites in Connecticut and Massachusetts. There is also a population on Fishers Island in the Long Island Sound.


HISTORY OF INTRODUCTION IN NEW ENGLAND

In 1876 Pueraria montana was shown at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition as a forage crop and ornamental. From 1935-1950, farmers in the South were encouraged to plant it to reduce soil erosion, but by 1953 it was recognized as a pest. The first Connecticut record was in 1978.


HABITATS IN NEW ENGLAND

Abandoned Field,Edge,Open Disturbed Area,Roadside,Vacant Lot,Yard or Garden

Pueraria montana var. lobata can be found at forest edges, roadsides and disturbed areas. This plant cannot survive without ample sun. It also grows best in areas with mild winters and summer temperatures greater than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.


THREATS

In the South, Pueraria montana var. lobata is rampant. This vine kills native vegetation by smothering or girdling plants. It breaks branches, and is sometimes so heavy that it can uproot trees by the force of its weight. It grows rapidly, and during the height of the growing season can grow up to 0.3 m (1 ft.) a day. The plant can gain 18 m (60 ft.) or more of length during one growing season. Due to Pueraria montana's highly aggressive nature, it is listed as a federal noxious weed.


MANAGEMENT LINKS

Conservation Commission of Missouri

Plant Conservation Alliance
Fact sheet including management information


DOCUMENTATION NEEDS

Documentation required: Specific photograph or mounted snippet of the leaves and inflorescence.
Best time for documentation: Summer, fall.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Conservation Commission of Missouri
General information including control

Southeast Exotic Plant Pest Control, University of Georgia
General information and images

Plant Conservation Alliance
Fact sheet

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
Fact sheet

Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council
General information and photographs [PDF]

The PLANTS Database
General information and a map

Oregon Department of Agriculture
Photographs and general information

National Invasive Species Information Center
Additional links

Integrated Taxonomic System Information
Taxonomic information


REFERENCES

Bailey, L.H.  1949.  Manual of Cultivated Plants.  Macmillan, New York.

Carter, G.A. and A.H. Teramura. 1998. Vine photosynthesis and relationships to climbing mechanics in a forest understory. American Journal of Botany 75: 1011-1018.

Fernald, M.L.  1950.  Gray's Manual of Botany 8th edition.  American Book Company, New York.

Frankle, E. 1989. Distribution of Pueraria lobata in and around New York City. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 116: 390-394.

Gleason, H.A. and A.C. Cronquist.  1991.  Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. 2nd ed.  New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Hipps, C.B. 1994. Kudzu: a vegetable menace that started out as a good idea. Horticulture 72: 36-39.

Holmgren, N.H. 1998. Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual.  New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Magee, D.W and H.E. Ahles. 1999.  Flora of the Northeast. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.

Miller, J.H. 1985. Testing herbicides for Kudzu eradication on a Piedmont site. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry 9: 128-132.

Mitich, L.W.  2000. Intriguing world of weeds series 67 - Kudzu [Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi]. Weed Technology 14(1): 231-235.

Pappert, R.A., J.L. Hamrick and L.A. Donovan. 2000. Genetic variation in Pueraria lobata (Fabaceae), an introduced, clonal, invasive plant of the southeastern United States. American Journal of Botany 87(9): 1240-1245.

Susko, D.J., J.P. Mueller and J.F. Spears.  2001. An evaluation of methods for breaking seed dormancy in kudzu (Pueraria lobata). Canadian Journal of Botany-Revue Canadienne De Botanique 79(2): 197-203.

Susko, D.J. and J.P. Mueller.  1999. Influence of environmental factors on germination and emergence of Pueraria lobata. Weed Science 47(5): 585-588

USDA, NRCS.  2001.  The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1. (http://plants.usda.gov).  National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

Zidack, N.K. and P.A. Backman.  1996. Biological control of Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) with the plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv phaseolicola. Weed Science 44(3): 645-649.