Kudzu vine (Pueraria montana var lobata) is a Category 1a listed plant and was probably introduced into South Africa as an ornamental, and for erosion control. The earliest record at the Pretoria National Herbarium is a specimen collected in Mpumalanga at Brookland State Forest in 1985. It is now present in the Schagen Valley between Sudwala and Rosehaugh and may have spread there from Brookland. It is also recorded in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng (Mamelodi area).
Why is it a problem?
Kudzu vine forms dense mats over the ground, debris, shrubs and trees by twining around objects. It invades plantations, gaps in the forest, riverbanks and moist areas. It smothers indigenous plants and causes them to collapse. Kudzu vine is a legume and can fix nitrogen and enhance the soil fertility. This may negatively affect indigenous species. It is drought tolerant and an aggressive invader.
In the United States kudzu vine has taken over many areas, especially the southern parts of the country leading to costly control measures. South African farmers need to be aware of kudzu vine and not mistake it for soybean which it resembles when it is still young. It is an alternate host for soybean rust.
SANBI’s Invasive Species Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR) Programme initiated a clearing programme in November 2012 in the Schagen Valley. Three clearing teams of 12 people per team were deployed to tackle the problem.
Kudzu vine is a perennial legume with typical legume leaves and flowers. It is a scrambling hairy vine up to 18 m high, somewhat woody. The leaf stalks and stems are covered with rusty-brown hairs. Trifloiate leaves are light green and finely hairy, 70-150 mm long, abruptly sharp-pointed but not bristle-tipped. Flowers, reddish-purple, fragrant, in spikes up to 300mm long, flowering time March-April. Pods flattened, clustered, 50-130mm, covered with long rusty-brown hairs.
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