Kudzu, Annoying Invasive Plant in the South Making Its Way Northwards
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After decades of overrunning Southern landscapes, the much maligned kudzu vine has found its way to Northeast Ohio. Although the short growing season in the Great Lakes region largely prevents the plant from flowering, and thus producing rapidly, a botanist with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History worries that potentially milder winters as a result of climate change could change that equation.
Introduced in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition as an ornamental plant, kudzu has earned place in Southern folklore as a persistent scourge that can blanket entire landscapes with its prodigious expansion - sometimes growing up to a foot a day. According to the University of Florida's Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, kudzu now covers over 2 million acres in the southeastern U.S. The ubiquitous nature of the vine exploded in the 1930s and 1940s when the U.S. Soil Conservation Service decided to use kudzu as means to prevent soil erosion and the agency even paid farmers to grow it. The tough and hardy vine grew very well in the warm, humid climate of the South especially without any natural controls and predators found in its original range.
Botanists with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said the usually cold winters of Northern Ohio would kill off the vine, but kudzu's root system can continue to grow - often at very deep levels. The only way to truly eradicate the vine is with a chemical herbicide application.