Habitat at Home: Much Ado About Kudzu
Learn what you can do to remove this invasive plant and make your yard a protected space for native plants, animals and insects.
It’s no secret that there is a kudzu problem in the south. It covers the ground, buildings, trees, you name it! It creeps into our backyards and crowds out native plants – reducing the habitat potential in your backyard. In this month’s Habitat at Home, we talk to two of Conserving Carolina’s kudzu experts – Natural Resources Manager, David Lee, and AmeriCorps member/Habitat Restoration Coordinator/Kudzu Warrior, Max Howes – to find out what you can do about a kudzu problem in your own backyard.
Kudzu is a perennial vine generally identified by the three broad leaves at the end of each protruding stem. Kudzu leaves are huge, sometimes growing to be seven or eight inches long! It can grow up to 1 foot per day – easily out competing other plants in its path. While Kudzu was originally brought over from Japan to be used in erosion control, it has a fairly poor root system when it comes to holding land in place.
What To Do About Kudzu
See what Max and David have to say about the best ways to remove this invasive weed!
Catch it early! Max, who leads our volunteer group the Kudzu Warriors, says that the best way to remove kudzu is to prevent its growth in the first place. “Try to eradicate kudzu before it becomes a bigger problem- look for small infestations and treat immediately before it has the chance to spread. Even just removing it off the trees is better than letting it go untouched.”
Use mechanical control. Mechanical just means using your body or tools to remove the plant! While this method may be the most time consuming, it can be the easiest on the environment. Make sure you do it right – or you will be pulling kudzu in the same spot next year! Here is what Max recommends:
“The key is to remove the crown, not the entire root! Follow the vine to the ground and dig there. The crown is a bulb-like feature at the top of the root system which holds the energy of the vine- by removing the crown, the vine will die and there is no need to dig up the remaining taproots which can be quite long. Cut the vine above and dig around the crown to remove it from the taproots. When kudzu is growing along the ground, it can develop multiple spots where it may send down taproots (and eventually form a second crown if it’s old enough) so be sure to follow the vine to where it no longer runs on the ground. This method is effective though it is labor intensive and can be slow. Repeated mowing can also kill kudzu eventually, though one needs to be persistent with this or it is just a short term solution.”
Consider chemical control. The chemical control of kudzu has been shown to be the most effective method in removing kudzu in the long term, but it can also be the most harmful to the surrounding environment.We recommend employing a licensed herbicide professional when considering the use of chemical controls.
A Final Thought
While any attempt to remove kudzu can be helpful for the overall health of your backyard, it is important to know that the most effective way to successfully eradicate kudzu is through IPM, or integrated pest management. IPM is a combination of removal methods – mechanical, chemical, and biological (through the use of goats or beneficial insects) and should be implemented for several years to ensure kudzu has been permanently removed. Happy pulling!
Practice your kudzu removal skills! Join Max and the Kudzu Warriors every Monday to remove kudzu on conserved lands. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join.
Habitat at Home is a monthly segment dedicated to providing you with tips to make your yard and home a better habitat for native plants, animals, and insects. This month’s Habitat at Home is written by Kelly Holland.