Plant World

Flowers and Unusual Plants

What is kudzu?

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) is a vine that was brought from Japan for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. It was intentionally planted throughout the southern United States during the 1930s in an attempt to control erosion. In fact, the federal government paid farmers as much as eight dollars an acre to plant it. In 1997, however, the government reversed its position on kudzu and referred to it as a “noxious weed.” Kudzu grows over everything that it encounters, draping itself across power poles and pine trees like a shawl. The plant is responsible for more than $50 million in lost farm and timber production each year. It grows at a rate of 120,000 acres per year. As of the early twenty-first century it covers between two and four million acres of land throughout the United States, occurring from Connecticut in the East, to Missouri and Oklahoma in the West, and south to Florida and Texas. Kudzu grows as fast as 1 foot (30 centimeters) per day. The latest approach to controlling the growth of kudzu is to have goats chew on it, devouring the leaves, stems, and roots.


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