- Identify one plant or animal species which was introduced to your area and explain how its introduction and continued presence has affected the local ecology and what, if any, steps are being taken to mitigate those effects. (minimum 100 words)
Pueraria montana var. lobata (Willd.) Maesen & S. Almeida Taxonomic Rank: Magnoliopsida: Fabales: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
Kudzu is a climbing, deciduous vine capable of reaching lengths of over 100 ft. (30.5 m). Leaves are alternate, compound (with three, usually lobed, leaflets), hairy and up to 5.4 in. (15 cm) long. Flowering occurs in midsummer, when 0.5 in. (1.3 cm) long, purple, fragrant flowers hang, in clusters, in the axils of the leaves. Fruit are brown, hairy, flat, 3 in. (7.6 cm) long, 0.3 in. (0.8 cm) wide seed pods. Preferred habitat includes open, disturbed areas such as roadsides, right-of-ways, forest edges and old fields. Kudzu often grows over, smothers and kills all other vegetation, including trees. Kudzu is native to Asia and was first introduced into the United States in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. It was widely planted throughout the eastern United States in an attempt to control erosion.
And it truly is everywhere. In Virginia there is an old joke that you shouldn't stand still too long in the summer or the kudzu will kill you. Along every highway and side road kudzu grows, choking out native trees and shrubs, smothering flowers, herbs, groundcover and even grasses. Very few animals eat it, not even our over-populated deer.
At present, no steps are being taken to curb the spread of kudzu other than simply not planting it anymore. Sadly, many parts of the kudzu are edible by humans—leaves, buds, even the roots are rich in nutrients and could be utilized as a wild-foraged food stuff. I even went so far as to mention that when proposing to the local WIC department that they might consider offering classes in native and wild food identification and preparation. They looked at me as if I were nuts.