The Invasion of Kudzu

The Invasion of Kudzu In North Carolina

The kudzu invasion in North Carolina. Have you ever been riding along a North Carolina highway in the summer months and seen a large overgrown area of a big leafy green vine. What is that stuff? It is common to see it along the interstates in North Carolina. It is called kudzu. It grows very fast and can quickly take over an area. A vine can grow up to 100 feet long and the vine itself be up to 10 inches thick. Kudzu can be quite invasive. It can grow as fast as 1 foot in 24 hours! Few animals eat kudzu. But there are some places that have tried using goats and sheep to control the growth. It is very hard to get rid of and the invasive vine has caused many problems.

Kudzu in North Carolina

Kudzu in North Carolina

It was brought to the United States from Asia for the purpose of livestock food and to control erosion. In the 1940s-1950s the government encouraged some farmers to plant kudzu thinking it would help control soil erosion. But it is now primarily a nuisance. It is very hard to kill and can take several years of repeated treatment to kill a mature kudzu vine. In order to kill the vine the thick extensive root system must be completely cut down and removed then the roots repeatedly mowed for two years. The cut portion must be careful disposed off to prevent spreading in other locations.

Kudzu is a threat to other plants because kudzu grows so fast and blankets other plants, even encircling their stems and tree trunks. It can also result in breaking branches of shrubs and trees and causing trees to fall over and uproot. The fast growing vines can quickly engulf power poles and power lines causing problems for electric companies. The vine can overtake outbuildings, deserted farm equipment and other structures, even large acres of trees and tracts of land.

Its rapid growth is spread by the vines that root at the nodes and form more new kudzu plants. The climate in North Carolina as well as other southern states is a perfect environment for the plant. Some research has found that herbicides have very little effect on the vine and may even help it to grow more. There is some research that recommends using herbicide treatments for at least 4 years and up to 10 years to kill the vines and root system in some areas.  Kudzu does survive in  drought conditions. In the cold months of fall and winter in North Carolina exposed kudzu leaves and vines are killed by the frost and cold temperatures, but the roots do survive so in the spring and summer it starts its invasion all over again.

Kudzu On I-95

Kudzu On I-95

The kudzu plant is kind of creepy in the fact that it grows toward the sun in response to the movement of the sun. It therefore climbs structures so it can reach the sun. It can not and does not support itself, it must grow on top of other plants, trees, buildings, power poles or whatever is close by in order to reach the sunlight.

Believe it or not but there are some good uses of kudzu! Medical research taking place now show the plant may be useful in medicines. WebMD states kudzu can be used to treat alcoholism, heart problems, breathing problems, control symptoms of menopause and other conditions.The thick strong vines make it great for making baskets. Some even use it for cooking and making jelly and syrup. There are even kudzu recipes and recipe books. You can find recipes for kudzu quiche, salad, salsa, candy, soda and tea and more.

Some claim the leaves, vine tips, flowers, and roots can be eaten, but don’t eat the vines. The leaves can be used like spinach and eaten raw, chopped up and baked in quiches, or cooked just like you would cook collards. Tender young kudzu shoots taste kind of like snow peas they say.

The purple-colored, grape-smelling kudzu blossoms can be used to make jelly, candy, syrups and even homemade wine. The large potato-like roots are rich in protein, iron, and fiber.They can be dried and then ground into a powder to be used to coat foods before frying or to thicken sauces similar to flour or corn starch.

Here is a link to Grandpappy’s Basic Recipes-A Collection of Kudzu Recipes!

So if you are ever traveling in North Carolina and see a large area blanketed in a green leafy vine hanging from surrounding trees and growing up the power poles now you know what it is! But by all means don’t break off any and take it home to root for your garden or yard!

Kudzu growing up a pole near Lake Gaston

Kudzu growing up a pole near Lake Gaston

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