15 Facts on Kudzu Vine: ID Chart (Pics), Areas, Killing Kudzu Vine That Kills Trees

Concerned man holds his chine while looking at kudzu vine that kills trees and wonders about the facts about kudzu plants, as well as how to identify kudzu, its growing zones and how to kill kudzu vines, but also how to safely grow kudzu forage.

The Kudzu Vine found its way into the country with the purest of intentions, but now, many people don’t want to see it in their lands, because like other invasive species that were transplanted, it’s negative impact on the native plant species is terrible.

It’s known as the vine that kills trees.

But although most people know its aggressive side, how fast it grows, and how lethal it can be (it’s deadly to all plants and trees underneath it), but there’s quite a lot more to this invasive plant species vine than what meets the eye.

In fact, some people actually plant it for the benefits kudzu vines offer (when controlled).

The complete guide contains 15 facts on Kudzu Vine that you might not know, along with ID charts and pictures so you can identify it in areas where it likes to grow.

But, it also explains how to eradicate kudzu vines in places where you don’t want them, and some of the green options for destroying it. 

Kudzu, Chinese Arrowroot, Japanese Arrowroot, East Asian Arrowroot

(Pueraria montana)

Kudzu Vine in an oval frame on a green background.
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • Genus: Pueraria
  • Leaf: Dark green, hairy, compound leaves growing in an alternate pattern
  • Seeds: Kidney-shaped, growing in brown hairy seed pods, 3-10 in number
  • Blossoms: Purple in color and have a grape scent, grow in clusters
  • Native habitat: East and South East Asia
  • Height: 60-100 Feet in length
  • Type: Perennial
  • Native growing zone: USDA zones 5-10

Kudzu Vine Facts You Should Know

There are some interesting facts about the Kudzu Vine that makes it stand out from other climbing and creeping plants.

  1. Kudzu is a member of the Fabaceae family, yes the Pea family of plants.
  2. There are at least 15 Kudzu Vine species growing all over the entire world and they are all native to China, Japan, Taiwan, and India.
  3. The name Kudzu is Japanese, referring to the name of the East Asian Arrowroot.
  4. You should also know that the plant is not toxic to humans, in fact, it is edible, despite it being a deadly weed.
  5. The creeping vine also has several more uses apart from being an ingredient in food recipes. It also boasts of being a nutritious animal feed, has medicinal properties, and can come in quite handy for basketry and the making of paper and clothes.
  6. The Kudzu came to the US in the early 1900s as an ornamental tree that could also help battle soil erosion but it has now evolved to become a threatening invasive species in South America.10
  7. The Kudzu was named a weed in 1972, not too long after it was a revered vine growing on more than a million acres of farms in the US.
  8. Probably the outstanding feature of the Kudzu Vine is the fact that it can grow to an astonishing one foot per day or 60 feet in a single season. One root is able to grow several vines that reach in various directions climbing over anything it finds on its way.
  9. The root of Kudzu Vine is able to reach 12 feet deep inside the ground and can grow so big as to measure almost 400 pounds.
  10. Did you know that the growing of Kudzu has a negative effect on the environment? The plant can effortlessly cycle nitrogen at a very fast rate and this does nothing but increase the rate of nitric oxide released into the air, which as you already know leads to ozone pollution.1
  11. Many confuse the Kudzu with the Poisonous Ivy, but the two are worlds apart. The Kudzu doesn’t have the Ivy’s tiny rootlets to use for climbing trees, instead, the plant itself does the climbing by twining around objects.
  12. The reason why the Kudzu grows so fast is basically a result of its growth pattern. The vines grow from the root in different directions and then the nodes along the stalks also dig down to form their own roots which are also able to form new plants on their own, repeating the entire cycle all over again and again.
  13. The plant can grow to form very thick covers that can reach as much as 8 feet of thickness.
  14. While the vines are pretty much expert climbers, they seem to fail at their job when trying to climb a smooth surface that has got a diameter of more than 8 inches.
  15. Unfortunately, the Kudzu is a known host for the pest that is known as the Kudzu Bug and the Soybean Rust disease.

The Kudzu Weed

The kudzu vine is a pretty famous invasive vine and has so many names added to its credentials. From a “mile-a-minute” and “vine that kills trees” to the catchy “the vine that ate the south,” virtually everybody in the country, especially those in South East US knows a thing or two about the Kudzu.

Maybe more negative than good but there is a reason behind that.

You cannot blame farmers and land owners in the South regions who love the native beauty, because the creeping, perennial vine has been a menace to the native plants there. As soon as the roots are in place, they overtake every single thing that lays in their path, even trees, and it is even worse because stopping it becomes a pain.

As trailing the South isn’t enough, the Kudzu Vine is also slowly but surely climbing upwards to the Midwest, reaching as far as Oregon.5

Perhaps the shocking part about it is how incredibly fast it can grow. It takes a very short time to get out of hand, and experts state that the vine can grow at an impressive one-foot length in a day.

Close up view of Kudzu Vine plant with its green broad leaflets.

It explains why it is common to find a 100-foot-long Kudzu.9 All this growth is all thanks to the tuberous root that supports the entire tree, a part that is also equally impressive.

Some records from the year 2001 show that the Kudzu stretches across a massive 5 million forest acres. To put this more in perspective, it means that the plant covers the entire Rhode Island state not once but five times.

The main reason why it is not really a favorite for farmers is the fact that it blocks the sun and in so doing deprives other plants of the nutrients that they need, killing them in the process.

Related Reading: Identify Weeds By Photo: 117 Common Weeds by Photo

History of the Pueraria montana: Invasive Southern Plant

The story of the Kudzu is a fascinating one. It is one of the rare cases of a plant with good intentions becoming one of the most hated.

So, since it is native to Asia, how did it happen to come to the US and end up being an invasive species? It all started in the late 1800s when the plant was introduced to the country to be grown for ornamental purposes.

With its breathtaking beauty and extremely fast growth rate, it wasn’t long before it became a massive hit among homeowners. More and more seeds were imported and more people had them growing right in their homes.

They couldn’t seem to get enough of its grape-scented types of flowers and how efficiently it worked as an ornamental tree.

That wasn’t all, the plant was again commissioned in the 1930s when more than 80 million of them were sent to aid farmers in their soil erosion problems and increase the nitrogen levels in the soils in South America, which further increased its popularity.

Fast forward to 1946, there was a record 3 million acres of Kudzu on farms.

All this was short-lived because come the 1950s, the beloved tree became a menace. Its spread got out of hand and the warm climate and heavy rainfall in the south didn’t help at all.

By the year 1962, the US had already declared the Kudzu Vine a weed.

How Fast Does Kudzu Grow? Kudzu Vine Growth Rate

It is shocking how long it takes to grow Kudzu Vine. It is no wonder that it gained so much popularity when it was first introduced to the US.

Graphics of Kudzu Vine growth rate showing images of Kudzu Vine with ages and respective average heights.

With a staggering growth rate of about a foot in a single day, it is not hard to tell why many farmers opted for it as the best remedy for their soil erosion problems.

All it has to do is to establish its roots. Once that is done, the plant will be able to grow by as much as 60 feet in a single growing season.

If you are planning to plant the vine, just know that the growth rate will never ever be a problem. The plant itself is also capable of reaching up to 100 feet in terms of length, and the stems can get as big as 4 inches diameter-wise.

The main reason why the tree grows extremely tall and within a very short time is because of its unique growing pattern.11 Several shoots emerge from the root in different directions and each stalk growing is also able to form independent roots from which more vines can grow.

How To Identify Kudzu Vine

As earlier noted, many tend to confuse the Kudzu Vine plants with other climbing plants, like the Poisonous Ivy.

Kudzu Vine identification chart showing full-grown Kudzu Vine image with average spread coverage, Kudzu Vine leaves, Kudzu Vine flowers, Kudzu Vine seeds, Kudzu Vine stem, and Kudzu Vine roots images along with their respective short descriptions.

Well, it looks pretty similar to other creeping plants, and here is how you know that what you are looking at is indeed a Kudzu Vine.

Kudzu Vine Leaves

The leaves of the vine look like those of many other plant species because they are alternate, compound, and oval to heart-shaped, much like several vining plants.

The difference may only arise when you consider that they are hairy, dark green, 2-8 inches long, and 3-4 inches wide.

Also, the edges of the leaf are smooth, not saw toothed, making it easy to distinguish from wild grape vines.

Kudzu Vine Stem

Since the Kudzu is a creeping and climbing plant, you can expect it to grow close to the ground or twine other trees and any object nearby.

The stems can be thin or thick depending on the type of plant and where it is growing but they are usually bendy to make the climbing way easier for the vine.

Kudzu Vine Flower

If you see that your Kudzu is not flowering in the first year, it is completely normal because most of them don’t really flower, until they are about 3 years old.

The blossoms are pretty hard to miss, not just because they are vibrant but they also have a sweet enchanting smell.

The Kudzu Vine has purple flowers and measure around half an inch long, and often bloom in July all the way to October.4

Kudzu Vine Seeds

You know that the Kudzu Vine is a member of the Pea family. Not only is it also a nitrogen-fixing plant, but it is also known to safely hold its seeds in a pod, like any other legume out there.

Therefore, you will likely find 3-10 kidney-shaped seeds tucked inside a dark hairy pod.

How Does the Kudzu Vine Spread?

Wondering how does Kudzu spread to become such a massive blanket cover within such a short time? It is all because of its sexual and asexual reproduction, which gives it kind of an edge over other plants.

For one, it spreads naturally just like any other plant through the germination of seeds, this is what is called sexual reproduction.

Wide angle shot of Kudzu Vine plant on trees and spreading outside of a house during daytime.

The Kudzu seeds can spread by the wind to other places and form new colonies or fall on the ground and stay there literally for years, later on germinating long after you mistakenly thought that you had gotten rid of the vine. If you are planning to plant this vine, you may go for this method instead, although there also exists the asexual or otherwise known as vegetative spread.

This is the sole reason why the Kudzu is the plant that it is because it is one of those vines that will keep forming roots all along the existing stalk and giving rise to new plants. Basically, new roots develop asexually at each and every node where the stems grow as long as there is soil contact.12

These nodes will breed new vines and keep spreading out conquering lands like the tree normally does.

Moreover, the plant itself uses other plants as props, spreading its leaves over the entire surface.

Uses of the Kudzu Vine and Kudzu Root Benefits

It isn’t really all bad when it comes to the Kudzu Vine, it actually has some pretty great qualities for a plant that farmers don’t want growing in their gardens and keep struggling to kill.

Graphics of uses of Kudzu Vine showing products that use the plant which include animal food, medicine, food and beverage, and assorted goods.There is definitely a positive side when it comes to the Kudzu and these reasons are why you would want to plant it (as long as the planting are controlled).

It Is an Excellent Animal Feed

Are you asking yourself, “Is Kudzu poisonous”? No, it is not, in fact, animals can’t help but forage on the tasty leaves and stems.

The Kudzu as food for livestock has been very helpful for goat farmers in the south.

However, it has earned a reputation for being only a temporary forage because it can be difficult to bale and preserve, and experts state that the entire plant’s nutritional content tends to reduce the more it grows.

You Can Eat the Kudzu

Apart from being a tasty and healthy snack for foraging animals, the Kudzu can also find itself in the kitchen, forming an important part of traditional cuisines.

All the parts are useful for various reasons, for instance, the starch from the roots can be used as a soup thickener while the flowers make jelly that tastes weirdly familiar to the one made from grapes.

The Roots of Kudzu Vine Have Medicinal Properties

The Kudzu root has been an integral part of ancient Asian medicine and has now become an important part of modern-day medicine too. Its antioxidant compounds have been known to cure liver damage, reduce the symptoms of menopause, reduce alcohol dependence, and help promote a healthy heart.8

The Kudzu Fiber Can Be Used To Make Various Objects

The fiber that comes from the vine, otherwise called the ko-hemp, can be used to make beautiful baskets and other stunning artifacts, all thanks to being a strong weaving material.

Local craftspeople also use it for making soaps, lotions, paper, and clothing.

Planting Kudzu the Creeping Vine

There are so many reasons why you would want to plant the Kudzu Vine, even though it is an invasive weed.

Whether you need it for use as an animal or human food or for medicinal uses, the following planting tips for Kudzu Vine may come in handy and make the entire process much easier.

When To Plant Kudzu Vine for the Best Yield

The timing matters a lot when it comes to successfully growing a vine, all you want is to make the Kudzu comfortable enough to set its roots, and it will surely handle the rest. For the best results, you may want to consider planting it at the same time that you would normally plant a perennial flower.13

If you live in the colder parts of the country, your best bet would be in spring, when there is no single danger of frost. However, this is only if you are planting it outdoors.

For planting in containers, there are no restrictions for the best timing because it will still grow all through the season, just as long as it is warm and you care for it.

Growing a Kudzu Vine From a Seed

As with many other plants, it can be tricky to grow the Kudzu from a seed. Some are not viable straight from the pods, while others will take a while to even germinate.

You may end up waiting a while if you are starting from the seed because you have to wait for germination, and it will take a minute before the roots establish themselves.

Close up of a flowering Kudzu Vine plant with its green leaves.

All in all, it can still work for you if you have the patience. The first step is finding the right spot or the perfect environment where you are certain that the Kudzu will be comfortable.

Ensure that there is direct sunlight and there are no shading objects around and that the soil is fertile and well-draining.

As for finding the seeds, you can either buy them online or from a nursery, or better still, find Kudzu in the wild and take out as many pods as possible and collect the seeds. Afterward, soak the seeds all through the night in warm water and dig 1-2 inches into the ground.

Keep watering and caring for the seeds until you see them sprouting.

Growing a Kudzu Vine From a Cutting

If you often get busy or want to avoid the daunting process of starting from the seeds, you can go for the easier route and grow a Kudzu from a cutting instead. It is actually the most recommended way to go because you have a better chance of success compared to starting with seeds.

All that you have to do is to find a healthy Kudzu and take the cutting from it, and you will be sure that it will grow to look exactly like the parent plant. For this planting method, you will have to make sure that you dig very deep and later use a raised bed to control the growth.7

Before planting though, you should make sure that the area is completely clear, which means no weeds and no close surrounding vegetation.

You can also add organic matter to the soil and till it to get rid of pebbles and rocks. When done, you are free to now take the cutting, remove the leaves at the bottom and leave only a few at the top and it should be ready for planting.

Growing a Kudzu Vine From a Seedling

If you think that planting from a cutting is the easiest route, you haven’t seen how convenient it is to start from a seedling. This is the ultimate go-to method for planters who tend to get too busy or those who have admitted that they have a green thumb and don’t want anything to go wrong.

All that is left to do is to dig a hole the size of the planter that the Kudzu seedling came in and transplant it to the ground, adding more soil and pressing on it to remove any air pockets that would hinder growth. You can then water the soil as usual and watch as your plant grows within the shortest time possible.

Maybe the only problem you will come across is finding a nursery selling the Kudzu Vine seedling. Most opt to sell the seeds instead and avoid deadlines with the invasive plant that often gets difficult to manage and threatens other surrounding plants.

In most cases, you will have to make the seedling yourself by planting a seed indoors in a container before later transferring it outdoors.14

How Far Apart To Plant Kudzu Vine

Unless you are talking about how far to plant the Kudzu away from other trees and buildings, there is no wrong way when it comes to vines. The Kudzu itself is able to spread in various directions within a very short time and there is no problem intertwining with other stalks.

However, for the sake of the planting, you can set the seeds or cuttings at least 10 feet apart from each other. But note that with their growing habits, they will still eventually end up intertwining.

Companion Plants for Growing Kudzu Vine

When it comes to the aspect of companion planting with the Kudzu, you will be safer not thinking about that. There is a pretty good reason why farmers would never dare plant one near their crops, and by now, you know it as a vine that kills other plants.

In no time, the plant creates a massive cover over plants and trees it finds, depriving them of the necessary nutrients that they need and slowly killing them in the process. It doesn’t matter if it is a massive 100-foot-tall tree.2

As much as you would want to have other vines or flowers growing alongside the Kudzu, just don’t, for their own good.

What Are the Best Growing Conditions for the Kudzu Vine?

Seeing how well the Kudzu Vine grows in the wild, it is not hard to tell that it is a survivor.

Despite not getting a lot of care and maintenance, the vine will always find a way to thrive, creating a massive colony and conquering massive land spaces.

Close up of Kudzu vines with its yellow flowers and green leaves.

That is the main reason why it takes a while to establish its massive root ball because, after that, it will be able to survive anything, including long drought periods.

However, for faster growth, the best growing conditions for Kudzu Vine are mild winters and fertile soils. They are known to grow in virtually any type of soil, whether acidic or lime, but it has to be moist or well-draining, and with that, the stalks will be able to grow at their normal pace of one foot a day.

Wondering what are the watering needs for Kudzu Vine plants, just like any other vine, but in this case, you are dealing with one that can survive long periods of drought. Watering once a week may be enough, especially in the summer but you can reduce the frequency when winter kicks in.

Another important question is, how much sunlight does Kudzu Vine need each day? As long as you plant it in a well-lit, unshaded spot, the Kudzu will be just fine.

Besides, it tends to grow in a pattern that follows where the sun’s rays are and should navigate its way to soak in more is the sun’s rays.

Pests That Attack the Kudzu Vine

Have you ever heard of the Kudzu Bugs?15 Well, these are the most common pests of the Kudzu Vine, as you can obviously tell from the name.

It is also one of the dangers of having the vine growing on your farm because the plant is a perfect host allowing the bugs to attack other nearby plants and trees.

Top shot of Kudzu Vine Bug showing its glossy brown back with short antennae atop the back of a Kudzu Vine leaf.

(Image: NCBioTeacher18)

The Kudzu bug is a tiny creature, measuring less than half an inch long, and looks a little like a ladybug. It has a sort of oblong body and a greenish-brown coat with dark spots.

You will also know it by the foul smell it emits when it gets crushed. Not only is it drawn to the Kudzu, but it also can’t get enough of other legumes, especially soybeans.

The bugs suck on the Kudzu’s leaves, making them slowly dehydrate and killing them in the process.6

For a second, you may think that this is a good thing, right? Because it helps kill the Kudzu if you want to eliminate it.

There is a downside because the Kudzu bugs can also easily transfer to other plants, especially legumes, and kill them off, and besides, there is no stopping them from finding their way into your house.

What Are the Remedies for Kudzu Vine Pests?

There are so many effective ways that you can use to remove pests from your Kudzu Vines or even your house in case they find their way there. You can vacuum them up and dispose of them but don’t squish them because they leave stains and foul odors behind.

Alternatively, you can spray the insects with pyrethroid pesticides.

Better still, if you want safer natural pest control for Kudzu Vine, you can always use a homemade pesticide to get rid of them. One that works wonders is a mixture of a cup of dish soap and a cup of vinegar, all poured into 2 cups of water.

You should spray that on the adults and the nymphs, and in case you want the most convenient method, you can always call in an expert to help.

Diseases That Attack the Kudzu Vine

The Kudzu Vine is also a well-known host for various agricultural diseases, but the most common one that you should be on the lookout for is Soybean Rust. Once the disease attacks the Kudzu, it can easily spread to other legumes around, and being fungal means that it is a fatal disease.

This problem usually manifests as lesions forming on the plant’s leaves. You will see grayish or brownish marks that start on the leaves and then slowly progress to the pods and the stalks.

At later stages, you will see massive leaf discolorations and immature leaf drops. The worst part is how it easily spreads to other innocent plants from the Kudzu weed.

That is why it is very important to know how to stop Kudzu Vine disease before it is too late for your other plants.16 As long as there are any plants in a 100-mile radius of the field, they are in critical danger of being infected.

In the earlier stages, you can control the spread by removing the affected leaves and stalks and burning them.

However, in the advanced stages, you will either have to remove entire plants that have been affected or use a strong fungicide. Better yet, if you are not sure of what you are doing, you can always seek professional help to handle the job better.

Effects of Before and After Kudzu Vine

There is a logical explanation as to why the Kudzu Vine was declared a weed more than 50 years ago. It is kind of the same as asking why are Mulberry Trees illegal because the government will always want to protect the people.

Even though it had the best of intentions coming into the country, it is hard to ignore all the devastating effects it has had on biodiversity and general ecology.

Kudzu Vine plant climbing and growing near a house.

The Kudzu is a fierce and aggressive competitor. It doesn’t care whether it is a low-growing grass carpet of a massive mature tree; it will climb on top of them all in a bid to soak in the sun’s rays.

By doing so, it leaves the other trees covered, depriving them of oxygen and sunlight, smothering and killing them in the process. Now you get why companies are tirelessly trying to find ways to inhibit their growth and don’t mind investing a lot of money in the process.

The effects don’t stop at plant life; remember that there are animals that depend on these plants, and killing them off also means their end. The Kudzu Vine, therefore, has a rippling effect all through the food chain and the ecosystem.

Do you know why you have to be very careful about growing the Kudzu? Because your own home is not safe.

If you plant them near your home, there is no stopping them from climbing up the structure, and there are chances that they can get so heavy that they cause damage. What if you fence your house?

It will not matter really, because the vine will still climb over it, and there are no limits, be it sidewalks, abandoned cars, huge trees, or even your neighbor’s houses.

How To Get Rid of Kudzu: Killing Kudzu and Kudzu Vine Prevention

Now that you know all the devastating effects of Kudzu, you may also want to know what are the best ways to get rid of it. Truth be told, it has been a challenge to completely eliminate it, if it were any easy, the government would have already found a way to obliterate it entirely from the country.

It seems to keep coming back either through fallen seeds or vegetative growth, and you will have to find a way to control the levels on your own. Basically, the method that you choose will depend on how bad the damage actually is.

If it is a new invasion, you can effortlessly deal with that by getting livestock to forage on the plants or simply mow them yourself.

However, in cases where there is a lot of growth, you can opt for cutting, but make sure that it is very close to the ground and then later treat it with herbicide.3 The best time to do that is later on in the summer.

Others also go for burning, but that doesn’t seem to be very effective because the plant will only get weak, but it won’t actually die.

To say that you have completely eradicated the Kudzu,17 you will have to go through with the over-the-ground methods and then finally follow up with elimination from under-the-ground. You will be more certain if you target the root crown because otherwise, the vine will only keep coming back.

Even after that, you will have to be vigilant for the next few years, and it is only until then that you can surely declare that you have won the war over Kudzu.

Kudzu Vine Protection: How Can You Prevent the Spread of the Kudzu Vine?

The Kudzu Vine is world famous for being a fast grower, and when you are trying to kill it, it won’t be long before you realize that it is also a survivor. It just doesn’t stop once it has set strong roots in the ground.

Close up of climbing Kudzu Vine plant with its green broad leaves and yellow flowers.

The best way to control it is to find the rot ball and remove it completely then add herbicides. But still, you will have to keep watch because there may be future seed sprouts.

Knowing what the Kudzu plant really is and how exactly it grows and behaves, you would want to be very careful about growing it on your farm. It is regarded as one of the most lethal vine plants in the world, no thanks to its extremely fast growth rate and how it mindlessly overtakes each and everything in its way.

There is absolutely no way of stopping it as soon as it starts to grow.

It is known to kill plants by smothering them and depriving them of the nutrients they need. But in a unique twist, the Kudzu has some benefits.

Livestock love snacking on it and it is a safe food source that you can use in recipes.

It explains why you would want to plant it but still, make sure that the Kudzu Vine is not growing anywhere near your house, otherwise, it will grow all over it too.

Frequently Asked Question About Kudzu Vine

What Is the Kudzu Vine Growing Zone?

The growing zones for Kudzu Vine; where to grow the Kudzu is surprisingly a massive range. It avoids extremely cold temperatures, thriving more where it’s a little warm, that is why you will find it growing comfortably in USDA zones 5-11 and establishing huge colonies in a large part of the country.

Read More About Kudzu Vine


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16Rivera, Y. R., & Thiessen, L. (2020, September 2). Asian Soybean Rust | NC State Extension Publications. NC State Extension Publications. Retrieved July 11, 2023, from <https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/asian-soybean-rust>

17Wikipedia. (2023, July 5). Kudzu. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 11, 2023, from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudzu>

18Kudzu Bug Durham NC Photo by NCBioTeacher. (2020, December 30) / CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal. Resized. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved July 11, 2023, from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kudzu_Bug_Durham_NC.jpg>