Kudzu Removal: Next Steps

By Ashley Parker

In the fall of 2013 and in the spring of 2014, AWS brought in Eco-Goats to attack the kudzu infestation along the Northwest Branch in Kirkwood Park of Hyattsville, MD.  As discussed in an AWS blog written on November 26, 2013, Kudzu is a non-native vine that is very aggressive once it becomes established in a natural landscape.  It establishes quickly, and is very difficult to eradicate.  The goats were a good tool for AWS land managers, as they reduced the thick biomass at the site which has paved the way for the next important steps in managing kudzu at this site.

Using the goats to eat the kudzu is a very similar approach to using mowers or weed whackers to cut the plants back.  The reduced kudzu biomass gives native vegetation a chance to take root and recreate lost riparian habitat.  While cutting weakens kudzu by making it harder for the plant to reproduce the lost biomass, it doesn’t eradicate it.  If managers don’t come back to the site and perform follow-up maintenance, eradication may not happen.  This might mean a site needs to be targeted with herbicide, mowed seasonally, or even have goats brought back in to continue eating.  Repeating cutting or mowing does appear to have a lasting effect on kudzu and may eradicate some populations.

Kudzu spreads via roots that are produced by thousands of large root crowns located under the soil.  These crowns become more accessible to land managers after the biomass is cut back.  AWS is getting ready to embark on the next step in managing the kudzu population along the Northwest Branch, and it will involve bringing in volunteers to help staff remove the root crowns.  The ground will be tilled and the root crowns exposed so volunteers can go in with handsaws and cut out the root crowns.  The root crowns will be bagged in large, black contractor bags and taken to the City of Hyattsville’s leaf pile site in order to be solarized.  Solarization will help kill the root crowns so they cannot reproduce future kudzu plants.

                       

Once the root crowns are no longer viable, the City of Hyattsville will assist AWS in getting rid of the root crowns via mulching.  Given there are thousands of root crowns just inches under the soil, it is unlikely that AWS will be able to completely eradicate kudzu at this site.  As mentioned above, it will be important for staff to come back and cut any regrowth.  This will require repeated management efforts, but eradication will become more possible by attacking the kudzu repeatedly.

                          

AWS will be holding several volunteer events associated with this kudzu removal effort.  We will be posting these events in the coming weeks.  Please keep an eye out on the AWS event calendar for more information and to register.  We hope you’ll join us for at least one of these events!

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