Kudzu

Kudzu, a perennial, woody, sprawling vine native to China and Japan. The stems, which may grow more than 100 feet (30 m) long, put down deep, tuberous roots at intervals as they spread, thus forming a network of stems and roots that resists erosion. The leaves are made up of three broad, pointed leaflets. The vine produces long clusters of purple flowers, shaped like those of the sweet pea, and large, flat, downy pods of beans.

Kudzu is a legume, a type of plant that adds nitrogen to the soil. It was widely cultivated in the United States in the 1930's to improve the soil and combat erosion. However, the vine spread out of control, choking out all vegetation in its path. For this reason, kudzu is now considered a pest and is classified as a weed.

In eastern Asia, kudzu is used as food, in making a form of tea, and in folk medicines. The roots are ground into flour, and the stem fibers are made into cloth, paper, and baskets. On Japanese farms, kudzu is used for erosion control, fodder, and fertilizer.

Kudzu is Pueraria lobata of the pea family, Leguminosae.