Kudzu continues to spread across Oklahoma
For a plant that is not supposed to be in Oklahoma, kudzu is well for itself…Too well.
Introduced into the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Expo in Philadelphia as an ornamental species, the plant is now one of the world’s top 100 worst invaders.
Karen Hickman, director of the Environmental Science Program within Oklahoma State University’s Ferguson College of Agriculture, said there are about 85 to 90 confirmed locations of active and healthy populations of this extremely invasive plant in Oklahoma.
“It will require a mechanical treatment and an herbicide treatment, repeated throughout the course of several years, to be able to remove it from that location,” she said. “It’s very challenging, because along each of the branches several individual plants could be produced.”
The plant, listed on the Oklahoma Invasive Plant Council’s invasive species list, is usually spread by a cutting by someone who is not aware it will do more harm than good.
This aggressive vine will resprout every year. There will be a compact leaf with three leaflets at every node, which will root wherever there is an opportunity and create a new individual plant. Its fuzzy leaf texture protects it from predation by insects and it has a lot of rusty brown spots along its very elastic stem.
The opportunistic vines produce runners that travel along the ground, up structures and even around itself to gain support to reach another structure and engulf it, as well, Hickman said.
Even with harsh winters and multiple years’ worth of drought conditions, the kudzu is going strong.
“It’s a problem we’re not supposed to have in this part of the country. It behaves like a very aggressive form of Bermuda grass,” said Keith Reed, Payne County OSU Extension horticulture educator. “It grows across the top of the surface and underground. People need to become aware of it and be very diligent in removing it.”
Kudzu could be easily mistaken for poison ivy, but the leaves are much bigger. Homeowners just need to see it.
“Once you’ve seen it, it’s unmistakable,” Reed said.
Landowners who need help identifying the plant or assistance in its management should contact their county OSU Extension office.
OSU Extension offers more information online about problematic horticultural plants.