The word “neglect” always carries a negative connotation. It is worse than just ignoring, for neglect takes place over a period of time and usually leads to harmful consequences. Neglect is perhaps the most important feature of Kudzu invasions. Kudzu thrives on neglect.
Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) is perhaps the best known invasive plant in the South. A member of the bean family (Fabaceae), and a native of Asia, it is a rapidly growing, twining vine with large, floppy leaves composed of three leaflets. Its prodigious summer growth rate (up to a foot a day) is legendary.
The greenway pictured below is located near Falls Lake and the town of Wake Forest, North Carolina. It was built by a commercial developer who began a project on a large parcel of land, with the greenway circumscribing one edge of the property. The project fell through, and the parcel was abandoned, leaving no one responsible for the greenway.
Faced with no opposition, Kudzu and other weeds began to overtake the greenway. These photos were taken in September, 2013. Below, Kudzu is flowing down a section of the asphalt trail like green lava.
Next, Kudzu shrouds a slope, with a pedestrian underpass partially hidden but still visible in the center.
Hanging vines of Kudzu, Japanese Honeysuckle, and English Ivy begin to form a hanging garden down the brick greenway wall.
An upper portion of the trail has large numbers of Dogfennel (Eupatorium capillifolium) and other weeds growing on the sides while trailing vines of Kudzu can be seen making their way up the edge of the path.
In photos taken this November, 2015, some changes are evident. Kudzu vines have grown all the way to the top of many trees bordering the greenway. The asphalt trail is mostly covered with a thatch of Kudzu vines which have resisted the traffic from mountain bikes, runners and walkers.
Growth of the brambles, young pines, and woody plants bordering the trail has created a corridor of plants covered by kudzu vines up to six feet tall. Only mountain bikes and foot traffic have kept the corridor from closing off the path.
The hanging gardens have proliferated and now close off most of the brick wall.
This abandoned greenway will eventually serve as a connector to join together a larger greenway system. When the time comes to clear the mass of plants, the Kudzu showing above the ground will be a big task. But the more difficult problem will be the large, central root crowns which have had time to gain size and strength, and to anchor deep roots. In cases like this, it takes time and persistence, sometimes several seasons, to remove or kill the crowns.