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    Kudzu, Pueraria lobata, is known in the U.S. as a harmful exotic plant that wreaks havoc on highway landscaping and farms.  The plant is native to China and Japan and is a coarse growing perennial that can average growing a foot per day, or up to 60 feet per growing season. It was originally introduced to the U.S. in 1876.   It has been known to destroy some wildlife habitat and is regarded by many as a very harmful plant to the U.S. landscape. Kudzu is easily identified by it's aggressive growth form overtaking trees with it's dense mat of vines covering anything in it's path.  It is a perennial and goes dormant in the cold months but springs to life when the weather warms up.  

 

    But that is only partial truth for Kudzu.  Here's the "rest of the story".

 

    Kudzu has become an important source of hay and forage for livestock and can provide an outstanding control for soil erosion due to it's long root system.  It is high in protein and vitamins A and D which makes it competitive with other livestock food sources such as alfalfa and clover.  Kudzu is palatable to all types of livestock and contains 14 - 20% crude protein, 2 - 3.5% fat, 30+% crude fiber and 8% ash.  If you raise goats this is a wonderful forage plant since it grows so abundantly and the enormous root system is packed with nutrients which the goats will find.

 

    Environmentally it is one of the wonderful plants that can be organically grown simply because it resists our popular herbicides such as Roundup or other generic competitors.  The basic rule is leave it alone and it will flourish naturally. Of course it is not a "companion plant" to anyone but itself unless one has a very non desirable neighboring plant that should be destroyed. 

 

    Kudzu is herb like, being used medicinally for menopause, myalgia, measles, dysentery, fever and other ailments of mankind.  In different cultures it is highly prized as a medicinal herb for many illnesses.  Kudzu is a unique source of the isoflavone puerarin .  Kudzu root compounds can affect neurotransmitters (including serotonin , GABA , and glutamate ) and it has shown value in treating migraine and cluster headache .    Chinese herbal medicines including kudzu have long been used to reduce intoxication from alcohol consumption. 

    Patients with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers should discuss with their physicians before using kudzu as isoflavones can promote the growth of certain breast cancer cells.

 

    So the next time you see this species think twice before classifying it as foe, it could be a friend for your specific circumstances.

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