May
19
2010

Kudzu: A kudzu infestation of a wooded area near Port Gibson, Mississippi. Note that the kudzu has completely overgrown several of the trees in this picture.
Kudzu: A kudzu infestation of a wooded area near Port Gibson, Mississippi. Note that the kudzu has completely overgrown several of the trees in this picture.Courtesy Gsmith
Chances are good that if you're reading this post from North of Kentucky or West of Louisiana, you've never heard of kudzu. Down here in Charlotte and the rest of the Southeast, we're very, very familiar with this plant.

Kudzu is an invasive species of vine indigenous to Japan and parts of China. As with many invasive species, kudzu was brought to America as a problem solver. Kudzu grows exceptionally fast, does a great job preventing erosion, and can be used as a feed for animals like goats and sheep. Humans can even eat kudzu flowers in the form of jelly.

Unfortunately, the growth of Kudzu soon spun out of control. With no natural consumer or pest to keep population in check, the fast growing plant began to spread, strangling trees and entire fields of low lying plants in its way. Today, the entire Southeast United States is effected, with no real solution available.

Well, a recent study by scientists from The Earth Institute at Columbia University just added another entry to the list of reasons to pull out the industrial sized weed-whacker: air pollution.

Another reason kudzu was so sought after is its ability to take nitrogen from the air and introduce or "fix" it into the soil. There, microbes turn the nitrogen into fertilizer for other plants. Huge mats of kudzu are so good at fixing nitrogen that they're upsetting the chemical balance of the ecosystem, which in turn results in increased levels of hazardous ozone gas.

Using the data they collected near areas of dense kudzu growth, the team of scientists were able to predict that in an extreme scenario, kudzu growth could contribute heavily to ozone warning days in the vicinity.

For lots more information about kudzu infestation and control, check here.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Melanie Nichols's picture
Melanie Nichols says:

I am in dire need of some advice on what to do with kudzu that is trying to take over the mountain we own. It is down a ravine & covering quickly. It Is out of control & where it is at isn't any way to get to it to control it. We've held it back some trying to contain it. It is pulling our power line down and the electric company says it's not their problem because it's on the line that goes from pole to house. I am at a loss on what else to do other than the constant back breaking work trying to keep it contained. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Is there any environmental kind of service that helps with this sort of thing since it is such an invasive thing? Thank you

posted on Thu, 09/03/2015 - 10:35am

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