Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) is a perennial, high-climbing vine. Though not currently believed to be established in Oregon, this weed poses a serious threat to Multnomah County both ecologically and economically, and is of the highest priority for early detection. Similar to English ivy but much more aggressive, kudzu grows over everything in its path, completely covering trees, buildings and even entire hillsides under a solid blanket of leaves.
Kudzu is most readily identified by its growth habit of quickly and completely covering surrounding vegetation and structures. The vines once established can grow up to a foot a day, and are typically one to four inches thick. Up to 30 vines can grow from a single root crown. The roots are fleshy with a massive taproot that can grow to depth’s of twelve feet. Kudzu has purple pea-like flowers that bloom in mid- to late summer and hang in clusters that are very appealing to nectar loving animals. In October and November the flowers are followed by flattened brown and hairy seed pods. Each leaf has three leaflets somewhat similar to poison oak. Individual leaflets are 3-4″ long and when young are deeply lobed with a hairy leaf margin.
A native plant commonly known as wild cucumber (Marah oreganus), has a similar growth habit to kudzu, but typically dies back to the ground in the winter and starts its vine growth from the soil surface each year. Wild cucumber also has singular leaves, and white flowers. The fruit of wild cucumber is a football shaped bladder with weak spines.
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