A brief history of Kudzu in the United States

Kudzu (Pueraria montana) is a legume native to southern Japan and southeastern China. It is a perennial semi-woody vine with purple flowers in the late summer and bean-like seed pods in the fall. Although establishment by seeds is rare, it is believed that seeds can remain dormant for several years before germinating. Leaves and small vines may die with the first frost, and matted leaves are persistent through the winter. It forms extensive monocultures, often draping and obscuring mature trees, utility poles and lines, houses, cars, etc.

Kudzu was first introduced to the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia where countries from around the world were invited to build exhibits for the occasion. Japan built beautiful gardens with kudzu. The fragrant blooms attracted gardeners in the U.S. who decided to introduce the plant into their home gardens. In the 1920s, the plant was promoted as fodder for animals, and in the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service promoted the plant for natural erosion control. During the Great Depression, hundreds of men were put to work through the Civilian Conservation Corps planting kudzu. In 1953, the United States stopped advocating the use of kudzu for erosion control, and in 1972 it was declared a weed by the US Department of Agriculture.