Biological Invasions

, 13:2167 | Cite as

Natural and human dimensions of a quasi-wild species: the case of kudzu

  • Zhenyu Li
  • Quan Dong
  • Thomas P. Albright
  • Qinfeng Guo
Perpectives and Paradigms


The human dimensions of biotic invasion are generally poorly understood, even among the most familiar invasive species. Kudzu (Pueraria montana (Lour.) Merr.) is a prominent invasive plant and an example of quasi-wild species, which has experienced repeated introduction, cultivation, and escape back to the wild. Here, we review a large body of primary scientific and historic records spanning thousands of years to characterize the complex relationships among kudzu, its natural enemies, and humans, and provide a synthesis and conceptual model relevant to the ecology and management of quasi-wild invasive species. We documented over 350, mostly insect, natural enemy species and their impacts on kudzu in its native East Asian range. These natural enemies play a minor role in limiting kudzu in its native range, rarely generating severe impacts on populations of wild kudzu. We identified a number of significant influences of humans including dispersal, diverse cultural selection, and facilitation through disturbances, which catalyzed the expansion and exuberance of kudzu. On the other hand, harvest by humans appears to be the major control mechanism in its native areas. Humans thus have a complex relationship with kudzu. They have acted as both friend and foe, affecting the distribution and abundance of kudzu in ways that vary across its range and over time. Our conceptual model of kudzu emphasizes the importance of multiple human dimensions in shaping the biogeography of a species and illustrates how kudzu and other quasi-wild species are more likely to be successful invaders.


Control mechanisms Human domestication Invasive species Natural enemy Pueraria montana Utilization 



We thank Wang Zunguo of Nanjing Museum for the archaeological information about kudzu, Yu Peiyu, Li Hongchang, Zhang Chunxian, and Zhou Hongzhang of Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences identified some insects; Zhuang Jianyun of Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences identified fungal species, and provided literature. GE Jianjun of Institute of Animal and Plant Quarantine, Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine provided the references on nematodes, K. Oono at Natural History Museum and Institute, Chiba helped literature collection of the insect that consume kudzu. James Vogelmann, Alisa Gallant, Shili Miao and Tim Lewis provided helpful comments. This study was supported in part by the Key Project of the National Basic Research of China (Grant 2006CB403206). T. P. Albright acknowledges support from National Science Foundation, Cooperative Agreement EPS-0814372. Q. Guo was supported by NSF grant 0640058.

Supplementary material

10530_2011_42_MOESM1_ESM.doc (478 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 479 kb)


  1. Abbas HK, Tak H, Boyette CD, Shier WT, Jarvis BB (2001) Macrocyclic trichothecence are undetectable in kudzu (Pueraria montana) plants treated with a high-producing isolate of Myrothecium verrucaria. Phytochem 58:269–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ainsworth GC, Sparrow FK, Sussman AS (1973) The Fungi. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  3. Banker JG (1876) Leguminosae. In: Hooker JD (ed) Flora British India 2. Lovell Reeve Co, London, pp 56–306Google Scholar
  4. Blossey B, Notzold R (1995) Evolution of increased competitive ability in invasive nonindigenous plants—a hypothesis. J Ecol 83:887–889CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boyette CD, Walker HL, Abbas HK (1999) Biological control of kudzu (Pueraria montana) with an endemic fungal pathogen. Proc South Weed Sci Soc 52:237Google Scholar
  6. Britton KO, Orr D, Sun J (2002) Kudzu. In: van Driesche R, Blossey B, Hoddle M, Lyon S, Reardon R (eds) Biological control of invasive plants in the eastern United States. USDA Forest Service Publication, USA, p 413Google Scholar
  7. Cai P, Sun JH, Jiang JF, Britton KO, David O (2001) A list of Chinese Cicadellidae (Homoptera) on kudzu, with description of new species and new records. Sci Silvae Sin 37:92–100 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  8. Chen GH, Zhang Q, Wu XL, Kong JL (2004) Determination of flavonoids in Pueraria radix and the vines of Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi by capillary electrophoresis with electrochemical detection. J Fudan Univ (Nat Sci Edn) 43:672–675Google Scholar
  9. Chick JH, Pegg MA (2001) Invasive carp in the Mississippi River Basin. Science 292:2250–2251PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cox GW (2004) Alien species and evolution: the evolutionary ecology of exotic plants, animals, microbes, and interacting native species. Island Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  11. Elton CS (1958) The ecology of invasions by animals and plants. Methuen, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Everest JW, Miller JH, Ball DM, Patterson MG (1999) Kudzu in Alabama: history, uses, and control. Alabama AM and Auburn Universities, Alabama Cooperative Extension System ANR-65. Accessed 1 Dec 2005
  13. Fan ZN, Xiao HS, Zhu QY (1998) Potential plant resources of the genus Pueraria. Plants 1998(6):4–5 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  14. Follak S (2011) Potential distribution and environmental threat of Pueraria lobata. Cent Eur J Biol 6:457–469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Forseth IN, Innis AF (2004) Kudzu (Pueraria montana): history, physiology, and ecology combine to make a major ecosystem threat. Crit Rev Plant Sci 23:401–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Forseth IN, Teramura AH (1986) Kudzu leaf energy budget and calculated transpiration: the influence of leaflet orientation. Ecology 67:564–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Foster S, Duke JA (1990) Kudzu in medicinal plants. Houghton Mifflin Co, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Fuller PL, Nico LG, Williams JD (1999) Nonindigenous fishes introduced into inland waters of the United States. Am Fish Soc Spec Publ 27. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MDGoogle Scholar
  19. Gagnepain F (1916) Légumineuses. In: Lecomte MH (ed) Flore génerale de L’Indo-Chine 2. Masson et Cie, Paris, pp 57–613Google Scholar
  20. Garcia-Berthou E, Alcaraz C, Pou-Rivira Q, Zamora L, Coenders G, Feo C (2005) Introduction pathways and establishment rates of invasive aquatic species in Europe. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 62:453–463CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goto M, Hyodo H (1987) Ethylene production by cell-free extract of the kudzu strain of Pseudomonas syringae pv. phaseolicola. Plant Cell Physiol 28:405–414Google Scholar
  22. Grierson AJC, Long DG (1987) Flora of Bhutan 1. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh, pp 607–738Google Scholar
  23. Guo Q (2006) Intercontinental biotic invasions: what can we learn from native populations and habitats? Biol Invasions 8:1451–1459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Guo Q, Ricklefs RE (2010) Domestic exotics and the perception of invasibility. Divers Distri 16:1034–1039CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Heidinger RC (1976) Synopsis of biological data on the largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides (Lacépède) 1802. Fish Synop 115:1–85Google Scholar
  26. Hoots D, Baldwin J (1996) Kudzu: the vine to love or hate. Suntop Press, KodakGoogle Scholar
  27. How FC (1954) Comments on the correct botanical names of several vegetables long cultivated in South China. Acta Phytotax Sin 3:81–82 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  28. Huang Y, Jiang W, Li XJ (2001) Cultivation technology of the root and rhizome Chinese medicinal plants. China Forestry Press, Beijing (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  29. Jiang NH (2002) Preliminary probe of Chinese civilization in the past 7000 years. People’s Publishing House, Beijing, pp 47–50 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  30. Keane RM, Crawley MJ (2002) Exotic plant invasions and the enemy release hypothesis. Trends Ecol and Evol 17:164–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Keung WM, Vallee BL (1998) Kudzu root: an ancient Chinese source of modern antidipsotropic agents. Phytochem 47:499–506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kimura Y (1932) On Pueraria hirsuta. J Jpn Bot 8:115–123 (in Japanese)Google Scholar
  33. Kinbacher KE (2000) The tangled story of kudzu. Vulcan Hist Rev 4:45–69Google Scholar
  34. Levine JM, Adler PB, Yelenik SG (2004) A meta-analysis of biotic resistance to exotic plant invasions. Ecol Lett 7:975–989CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Li SZ (1590) Ben Cao Gang Mu, part 18. Hu Chenglong, Nanjing (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  36. Li PC, Ni CC (1985) Leguminosae. In: Wu CY (ed) Flora Xizangica 2. Science Press, Beijing, pp 701–907 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  37. Li JF, Tian MY, Gu DJ (2003a) Survey of insect species feeding on kudzu Pueraria lobata Ohwi. Nat Enemies Insects 25:42–48 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  38. Li JF, Tian MY, Gu DJ, Sun JH (2003b) Interspecific covariant among ten mains species groups of arthropods on kudzu Pueraria lobata. J Huazhong Agri Univ 22:126–129 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  39. Li JF, Tian MY, Gu DJ, Sun JH (2004a) Composition of arthropods and population dynamics of main insect groups on Pueraria lobata. J South China Agri Univ (Nat Sci Edn) 25:56–58 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  40. Li JF, Tian MY, Gu DJ, Sun JH (2004b) Interspecific association among dominant species groups of arthropods on Pueraria lobata. J South China Agri Univ (Nat Sci Edn) 25:48–51 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  41. Lowe S, Browne M, Boudjelas S, De Poorter M (2000) 100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species: a selection from the global invasive species database. The invasive species specialist group (ISSG) a specialist group of the species survival commission (SSC) of the World conservation union (IUCN). Updated and reprinted version: November 2004., Accessed 2 Dec 2005
  42. Ma JS (2008) The identity of kudzu and its invasive in the USA—The lesson learned from deliberately introducing an aggressive plant. J Wuhan Bot Res 26:158–162Google Scholar
  43. Mallory WH (1926) China: land of famine. American Geographical Society, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  44. Miller JH (1988) Kudzu eradication trials with new herbicides. Proceedings of Environment Legislation and its Effects on Weed Science, 41st Annual Meeting, pp 220–225Google Scholar
  45. Miller JH, Edwards MB (1983) Kudzu: where did it come from? And how can we stop it? South J Appl For 7:165–168Google Scholar
  46. Mitich LW (2000) Kudzu [Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi]. Weed Technol 14:231–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Munger GT (2002) Pueraria montana var. lobata. In: Fire effects information system, (Online). US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Accessed 30 Jan 2006
  48. Nanjing Museum (1978) The relics of Caoxie Mountain, Wu County, Jiangsu, China. Collect Cult Relics 3:1–24 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  49. Palmer MA, Bernhardt ES, Chornesky EA, Collins SL, Dobson AP, Duke CS, Gold BD, Jacobson R, Kingsland S, Kranz R, Mappin MJ, Martinez ML, Micheli F, Morse JL, Pace ML, Pascual M, Palumbi SS, Reichman OJ, Townsend AR, Turner M (2004) Ecology for a crowded planet. Science 304:1251–1252PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pan FJ (2001) Illustration of plants in the book of song’s. Owl Publishing House, Taipei, pp 18–19 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  51. Pappert RA, Hamrick JL, Donovan LA (2000) Genetic vaiation in Pueraria lobata (Fabaceae), an introduced, clonal, invasive plant of the southeast in United States. Am J Bot 87:1240–1245PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Perry LM, Metzger J (1980) Medicinal plants of east and Southeast Asia: attributed properties and uses. The MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 224–225Google Scholar
  53. Sher AA, Hyatt LA (1999) The disturbed resource-flux invasion matrix: a new framework for patterns of plant invasion. Biol Invasions 1:107–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Shimoda T, Shinkaji N, Amano H (1997) Prey stage preference and feeding behaviour of Oligota kashmirica benefica (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae), an insect predator of the spider mite Tetranychus urticae (Acari: Tetranychidae). Exp App Acarol 21:665–675Google Scholar
  55. Simberloff D (2011) Kudzu. In: Simberloff D, Rejmánek D (eds) Encyclopedia of biological invasions. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 396–399Google Scholar
  56. Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council (2001) SE-EPPC fact sheet: Kudzu. The Bugwood network (producer). The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences/Warnell School of Forest Resources, TiftonGoogle Scholar
  57. Sun ZY (2001) Kudzu and its utilization. For Sci Technol Manag 3:41–43 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  58. Tai FL (1979) Sylloge fungorum sinicorum. Science Press, Peking (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  59. US Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (1993) Harmful non-indigenous species in the United States. US Government Printing Office, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  60. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (1971) Common weeds of the United States. Dover Publications, New York, p 463Google Scholar
  61. Van der Maesen LJG (1985) Revision of the genus Pueraria DC., with some notes on Teyleria Backer (Leguminose). Agri Univ Wageningen Pap 85:1–132Google Scholar
  62. Van der Maesen LJG, Almeida SM (1988) Miscellaneous notes: No. 37, two corrections to the nomenclature in the revision of Pueraria DC. J Bombay Nat Hist Soc 85:233–234Google Scholar
  63. Verdcourt B (1979) A manual of new Guinea legumes. Office of Forests Division of Botany, Lae, p 485Google Scholar
  64. Vitousek PM, Mooney HA, Lubchenco J, Melillo JM (1997) Human domination of earth’s ecosystems. Science 277:494–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Westbrooks R (1998) Invasive plants, changing the landscape of America: fact book. Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  66. Williamson M (1996) Biological invasions. Chapman Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  67. Winberry JJ, Jones DM (1973) Rise and decline of the “miracle vine”: kudzu in the southern landscape. Southeastern Geographer 13:61–70Google Scholar
  68. Wu QJ (1848) Zhi Wu Ming Shi Tu Kao. (Reprinted, 1919, the Commercial Press, Shanghai), pp 507–509 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  69. Wu TL (ed) (1994) A checklist of flowering plants of islands and reefs of Hainan and Guangdong Province. Science Press, Beijing, pp 1–334 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  70. Wu DL (1995) Pueraria. In: Lee SK (ed) Flora reipublicae popularis sinicea 41. Science Press, Beijing, pp 219–229 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  71. Wu SH, Chaw SM, Rejmánek M (2003) Naturalized Fabaceae (Leguminosae) species in Taiwan: the first approximation. Bot Bull Acad Sin 44:59–66Google Scholar
  72. Yan F, Huang LH, Chen J (1999) Pathogenic identification of the imitation rust of Pueraria thomsonii in Guangzhou Area. Plant Prot 1:11–13 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  73. Zhang SM (1995) Economic insect fauna of China 50, Hemiptera (II). Science Press, Beijing (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  74. Zhang SM, Zhao YX (1996) The geographical distribution of agricultural and forest insects in China. China Agriculture Press, Beijing, pp 122–217 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  75. Zhu S (1406) Jiu Huang Ben Cao. (Reprinted, 1959, Zhonghuashuju, Beijing. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  76. Zidack NK, Backman PA (1996) Biological control of kudzu (Pueraria lobata) with the plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. phaseolicoles. Weed Sci 44:645–649Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V.(outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhenyu Li
    • 1
  • Quan Dong
    • 2
  • Thomas P. Albright
    • 3
  • Qinfeng Guo
    • 4
  1. 1.Laboratory of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Chinese Academy of SciencesInstitute of BotanyBeijingChina
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyFort Collins Science CenterFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geography and Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation BiologyUniversity of NevadaRenoUSA
  4. 4.USDA FSEastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment CenterAshevilleUSA

Personalised recommendations