Kudzu is thriving in Indiana. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology is working to try and eradicate the invasive vine, but they need the help of landowners to identify and report it on their property to avoid any further damage to the surrounding areas.
What is kudzu and where did it come from?
Kudzu is an invasive vine that was introduced to the U.S. from Japan. In the southern U.S., this vine can grow a foot per day and can cover and outcompete native vegetation causing serious damage to the forest ecosystem. According to Indiana DNR, kudzu can also harbor soybean pests and diseases.
Kudzu was originally introduced to the U.S. in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. During the 1930s, it was promoted by the Soil Conservation Service and planted throughout the southern U.S. where it was used for animal feed and erosion control. Since then, kudzu has invaded the forested lands of the southern U.S., covering millions of acres.
What does kudzu look like?
Kudzu leaves look like bean leaves. A single trifoliate leaf is composed of three smaller leaflets. They are often hairy in young plants. Brown leaves often remain on the plant after the first hard freeze but eventually fall off vines by mid-winter. Kudzu can be confused with wild grape, wild cucumber and Greenbriar. However, these plants have a simple leaf, not a leaf composed of three leaflets. There are native Indiana plants that look similar to kudzu but are not as large. Kudzu vines often cover trees and all other vegetation, creating a monotypic landscape.
Where is it being found in Indiana?
In Indiana, kudzu is found mainly south of I-70 but also as far north as LaPorte, Stake, and Elkhart Counties. It continues to spread further north and adapt to colder climates as well. Below is an image where Kudzu has been found across Indiana.
What kind of damage can it do?
Kudzu shades and uses valuable nutrients from other native vegetation. It weighs down trees and increases snow load on trees causing their tops to break. Kudzu mats can be five feet deep and impassible, leaving many areas unusable for outdoor recreation while also creating an ideal environment for rodents and snakes.
What should you do if you identify kudzu on your property?
Contact the Indiana Department of Natural Resources if you identify kudzu on your property. DNR has a number of ways to help control it on their website using this fact sheet.