Pueraria montana var. lobata
WARNING: LOCALLY INVASIVE SPECIES
Common Name: kudzu vine 
Type: Vine
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: China, Japan
Zone: 5 to 10
Height: 30.00 to 100.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 20.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Purple
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: High
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Tolerate: Drought, Heavy Shade
Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) is listed as an exotic invasive species to Missouri and the Midwest by the Midwest Invasive Plant Network. It is one of the top twenty plants known to be spreading into native plant areas and crowding out native species in the St. Louis region. Kudzu spreads quite aggressively via runners and rhizomes and by vines that root at the nodes. The plants often completely engulf trees and also man-made structures such as barns. Kudzu is listed as a noxious weed in Missouri and Illinois making it illegal to grow, propagate or sell.

Culture

Easily grown in well-drained sandy loams in full sun. Tolerates drought. Prefers full sun, but will grow in shade. Usually does not produce flowers in shade, however. Does not like wet soils. In cold winter climates such as the St. Louis area, vegetative growth will die back to the crowns each winter. Vines can still grow and spread invasively in Missouri if not checked.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Pueraria montana var. lobata, commonly called Kudzu, is a deciduous twining vine that is noted for its rapid and invasive growth. It is native to Asia where it has long been cultivated for its starchy tubers (food crop and medicinal uses) and for its hemplike fibers. It was first introduced into the U.S. as an ornamental landscape planting at the Japanese Pavilion at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. During the first half of the 20th century, before its aggressive nature was fully understood, it was widely planted in the southeastern U.S. as a forage crop and for erosion control. In Missouri, it was planted along highways for bank stabilization. Over the past 100 years, it has escaped cultivation and naturalized in many areas of the eastern U.S. from Connecticut to Oklahoma south to Florida and Texas, becoming perhaps the most infamous invasive weed in the country. Although early on the Federal Government promoted its use, in 1997, it was classified as a noxious weed under the Federal Noxious Weed Act of 1974. It is currently the target of numerous extinction programs. Kudzu can produce prodigious amounts of foliage in optimum conditions, growing up to a foot per day and to 100 feet in a single growing season. The vines spread by rhizomes and by stems that root at the nodes. When left unchecked, particularly in warm winter climates, vines can cover shrubs and tree canopies, choking out and killing entire plant communities. Vines have also been known to collapse buildings and bring down utility poles. The voracious nature of this vine has given rise to a number of tongue-in-cheek common names such as “the vine that ate the South”. This is a tuberous vine that establishes huge taproots. It forms a crown at the soil level from which up to 30 vines may grow, with individual vines extending up to 100’ in length and to 1-4” in diameter. Vines are hairy and are clad with compound, trifoliate green leaves, sometimes lobed. Pendant racemes of fragrant, pea-like, purple flowers may appear in late summer to early fall on plants growing in sun. Flowers are uncommon in the northern parts of its growing range, however. Flowers give way to flattened, bean-like, hairy seed pods (to 2” long). Synonymous with and formerly known as Pueraria lobata.

Genus name honors Swiss botanist Marc Nicolas Puerari (176-1845).

Specific epithet means pertaining to mountains.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Extremely invasive.

Garden Uses

Kudzu should not be planted in the U.S. for ornamental or cover uses. It is illegal to plant it in many areas of the United States.