Home, Farm, & Garden
Kudzu, that woody vine named Pueraria lobate, blankets parts of Surry County in green. You will find this vine along field edges, riparian areas, right-of-ways, and entrances into wooded areas. It spreads its prolific self along the ground and into the canopy of trees. Kudzu came into the United States in the late 1800s from Asia for the purpose of erosion control and as a livestock forage.
Kudzu grows anywhere from 35 to 100 feet in length. Its leaves are alternate and compound with three leaflets. And have you ever seen its lavender pea-like flowers? They are visible from late August into September. After the flowers are spent, flattened pods up to three inches in length will appear and mature into January.
The problem with kudzu is that it grows up to one foot per day. It spreads through rhizomes, runners (stems that root at the tip when it makes soil contact), and by vines that root at the nodes to form new plants. Kudzu soon covers whatever it touches. Patience and persistence are needed to contain and control this invasive vine. Glyphosate can control kudzu, but it will not be an easy task and may take several years of follow-up treatments for eradication. There are stronger herbicides available, but they are not necessarily appropriate for the home landscape.
Before pulling out the backpack sprayer, cut climbing vines in trees at ground level. If feasible, mow or weed-eat ground level patches during the growing season so that the root crowns are visible. Once the vines re-sprout, then spot-spray the ground level foliage at the root crowns with a 5 percent solution of glyphosate. Add a surfactant to the spray to increase the glyphosate’s effectiveness. Now is an ideal time to apply chemical control. Another control option would be to “paint” a 10 percent undiluted glyphosate concentrate (53.8%) solution to the entire node. This could impose more damage to the large root.
Sometimes mowing or weed eating to control the vine is not possible. If you find yourself in this situation, spray the stand with a 5 percent glyphosate and surfactant in late summer. Be cautious, non-target plants may be at a higher risk for injury using this method. Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide. These types of herbicides are not specific in acting against certain plant species, and they control all plant material they contact. Continue monitoring the sprouting that may occur at the root crowns each year and re-treat annually until the control you desire is achieved.
And as T.H. Palmer wrote in 1840, “Tis a lesson you should heed, Try, try again; If at first you don’t succeed, Try, try again; Then your courage should appear, For if you will persevere, You will conquer, never fear; Try, try again.” (“Try, Try Again,” The Teacher’s Manual, 1840)
Note: When using herbicides remember to follow label recommendations. Any mention of trade products, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by North Carolina State University.