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Kudzu Heads North

06:34AM Sep 03, 2014

A super-weed known for ‘eating the South,’ is making its way up north. The Kudzu plant has been found in pockets north of the Ohio River over the last decade and specialists feel it could continue to grow places it hasn’t been seen before.

Kudzu is mostly found in the southeastern United States. But now it’s been spotted in areas like Michigan, Illinois and Indiana. Growing a foot to 18 inches a day, it’s hard to maintain and can cover houses, fields and yards.

Kudzu is invading the north and Mother Nature might be to blame.

"We think that with warming winters, kudzu is going to be a potential newcomer to many parts of the United States that have not seen kudzu before and may not be familiar with it," said USDA plant physiologist Lewis Ziska.

Ziska says there are two reasons why the weed is growing. Some regions have experienced warmer winters, which has spiked the weed to grow.

"As that temperature shifts, it allows kudzu to move farther north. Locations based on a USDA survey of kudzu locations in the 1960s. Those locations that didn't show any kudzu, are now showing significant amounts," said Ziska.

The other is carbon dioxide.

"CO2 provides carbon for photosynthesis and the more carbon you give them for about 95 percent plant species, the faster they grow," said Ziska.

While it’s still unclear exactly how the weed migrates north, Ziska might have some answers. He says the plant can regenerate itself.

"As those pieces move with farm equipment or with cars, kudzu will become re-established," said Ziska.

The plant can produce a seed.

"Northern populations of kudzu are actually flowering or producing seeds and that seed itself might be where coming from," said Ziska.

Which means it needs to be monitored or it can over-run fields if they’re solid for too long.

"It tends to negatively impact the soil carbon because it tends to use up a lot of carbon so soil will become less fertile over time," said Ziska.

Ziska says kudzu is a host for soybean rust. Both plants are also genetically related.