The “Mile-A-Minute” Vine

We want to introduce you to something that might scare you a bit today. It can grow upwards of a foot a day. It has an extensive root system that is incredibly difficult to eradicate once it takes hold. This invasive species lays claim to have “Eaten the South”, and with its voracious appetite, is heading our way. Do we have anything to fear here in Canada from this native Southeast Asian vine? Possibly not, but is it worth it to take that risk? The US has spent billions trying to control this noxious weed, after having introduced it themselves in 1876. Do you know what that weed is?

Today at CLC Tree Services, we will talk with you about the power of KUDZU.

Kudzu is a perennial vine that has three large ovate leaflets attached to it. Each leaflet has two to three lobes, as well as a hairy underside. The leaflets have the ability to trap nitrogen in the air, thus providing nutrients to the plant in areas of poor soil conditions. It is also tolerant of stressful conditions, such as drought. While it can propagate via the seeds from its seed pods, a more effective means of propagation comes from its ability to root wherever it touches the ground. Kudzu has extensive nodes along its vines that easily twine and root when they come into contact with anything. That anything can be the ground, a tree, a hydro pole or your house. With the ability of these vines to grow 60 feet a year, effectively covering approximately 150, 000 acres annually, it is no wonder that this vine has been called the “mile-a-minute” vine. The story goes that people in the south close their windows at night, for fear of the “foot-a-night” vine.

So kudzu grows fast and has an extensive root system. Why is that a bad thing? Well, as kudzu grows it twines itself around whatever it touches. Due to the speed of its growth, a kudzu vine can effectively choke out whatever plant it touches. The host plant cannot compete for nutrients and often cannot hold the weight of the vines. Aside from the death of any tree or plants that kudzu attacks, there is the danger of those trees breaking or being uprooted, as well as extensive damage to electrical lines, and significant loss to the forestry industry. Hmm, so perhaps those pretty, fragrant vines introduced back at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia weren’t such a good idea after all.

Or were they? One of the reasons why kudzu was introduced in the first place was to improve soil erosion in Pennsylvania. It also improves nitrogen content in the soil, thereby improving poor soil conditions. Since it seems that the battle against kudzu will not be won in an easy stroke, there have been many who have come up with other ways to deal with it. While it does not respond well to herbicides, it is edible and can be fed to livestock. In fact, it can be fed to people as well and makes a great starch alternative. The Japanese make kuzumochi out of it and we found recipes for sorbet, quiche and more. Supposedly it can be cooked like collard greens, turned into jelly or just eaten raw. Sounds like hunger shouldn’t be a problem in hard hit places like Alabama, Georgia or Mississippi then. There are even some researchers who have done studies that suggest it can be helpful in reducing alcoholic cravings, helping with postmenopausal symptoms such as hypertension, and even treating diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. Well now, perhaps there is a place for this noxious weed after all!

In all seriousness though, the kudzu vine has already been discovered on Canadian soil and measures have been taken to eradicate it. While it is native to Southeast Asia, they have insects that help to control its spread there. In the US and Canada, we do not. At CLC Tree Services we love and try to take care of all of our native tree species. Trying to wage battle against this potentially destructive invasion is not something we want to see. So if you discover any traces of the kudzu vine on Canadian soil, please report it to the Ontario Invasive Plant Council. We don’t want to lose any more of our natural beauty to new foreign invaders. Do you?





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Published by
July 28, 2011 9:00 am