Description: Kudzu is a climbing, trailing, mat-forming deciduous vine which can grow to be over 100 feet long. It has alternate, pinnately compound leaves with 3 leaflets, each 3-7 inches long and 2.5-5 inches wide. Except when in shade, the leaflets are usually at least slightly lobed—the middle leaflet being 3-lobed and symmetrical and the side leaflets being 2-lobed and asymmetrical. Young stems are yellow-green with dense golden hairs and frequent nodes. Flowers are pea-like and lavender to wine-colored, with yellow centers. They grow from where the leaves attach to the stem and are present in clusters 2-12 inches long between June and September. The fruits are clustered, hairy pods about 3 inches long and about 0.5 inch wide which ripen from green to tan and bulge where there are seeds.
Distribution: Kudzu prefers open, disturbed areas such as roadsides, right-of-ways, forest edges, and old fields.
Origin: Native to eastern Asia, kudzu was first introduced in the United States in 1876, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where it was promoted as an ornamental plant and a forage crop. Between 1935 and the mid-1950s, southern farmers were encouraged to use it for erosion control, and, for years, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps planted it widely. In 1953, kudzu was recognized as a pest weed by the U. S. Department of Agriculture and removed from that organization’s list of permissible cover plants.
Problem: Kudzu forms dense mats covering the ground and other vegetation, including shrubs and mature trees, which it smothers and kills. It roots where its nodes touch the ground, allowing rapid colonization, and its seeds are transported by animals, wind, and water.
Control: Kudzu is an extremely difficult species to control. If you identify Kudzu growing on your property, it is best to contact the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology, your county Purdue Extension agent or local cooperative weed management association. Indiana is actively trying to eradicate this species on a statewide basis before it becomes too widespread and hard to control.