Vine Weeds of Missouri - Page 10

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata)

KudzuKudzu is one of the most aggressive-growing vines in the world, with vegetative growth rates up to 12 inches per day under optimal conditions. In Missouri, kudzu was extensively planted for erosion control many years ago.

Kudzu is one of the state's noxious weeds because it destroys wildlife habitat. Kudzu regenerates each spring from vast root reserves. The leaves are trifoliolate and occur alternately along the stem. Each leaflet is ovate in shape, hairy and may have several lobes. The terminal leaflet is on a stalk slightly longer than the stalks supporting the lateral leaflets. A unique feature of the plant is the copper-colored hairs found on the immature vines. As the plant matures, the hair is lost and the vines become woody. The flowers have a “squirrel-tail” appearance in racemes, or clusters, up to 8 inches long. They are reddish purple and have a grape-flavor aroma.

Kudzu is sensitive to frost, and the vegetation dies back in the fall, but the stems persist through the winter. Missouri is in the northernmost limit of the plant's range.