auxin
A plant hormone that promotes root formation and bud growth, which is stimulated by cutting off kudzu vines can make an infestation worse. Click here for more information.
crown
A knob of tissue on top of the roots that sprouts vines. Severing the crown from the roots kills the plant, and the roots die. Roots do not sprout vines.
defoliation
The loss of leaves and other photosynthetic plant structures. It can be due to natural causes (drought, disease), or deliberate by chemical or mechanical means.
etiolation
A plant that is not exposed to sunlight does not develop chlorophyll, and therefore is not green. It has a "potato sprout" look. To learn more, and to read how this relates to kudzu control, click here.
herbicide
A chemical that kills plants, but might injure or kill other living things. Herbicides specific to legumes are sometimes used to kill kudzu, while sparing plants that are not legumes. The active ingredient of some herbicides, such as Roundup®, are safe for wildlife when used properly; however, formulations sometimes include ingredients such as surfactants that are harmful to fresh water creatures such as fish and amphibians. Herbicides for kudzu are a foliar treatment, which means they act by being absorbed into a plant through its leaves.
kudzu
A viney legume that is mostly found in the southeastern part of the United States, but is native to China. Its vines grow up to 90 feet per season, leading to "green mummies" (vine enshrouded dead trees and shrubs) throughout the Southeast. The plant was brought to the United States originally as a novelty and an ornamental plant, and then for erosion control for farmland, railroad banks, and the shores of bodies of water.
milli-acre
A milli-acre is one thousandths of a acre, a convenient unit for counting plants in an area. Click here for information on using one-quarter milli-acre plant counts to estimate the number of kudzu plants on a site.
node
Every 8 inches or so a little bump forms on a new kudzu vine that is called a node. The node is a source of new vines. Nodes form hair-like roots ("rootlets"), which attach to the ground. Then the node enlarges to form a crown and large roots.
Pulaski
A tool used by firefighters with a head having hatchet and mattock-hoe blades. It is lighter than a mattock and pick. It was the tool of choice when the Coalition first began evaluating hand tools for surgical crown removal. But mattocks and picks are more widely available, and currently the tools of choice for digging up and cutting off large kudzu crowns.
rhizomes
Horizontal plant stems that grow above or below ground. Kudzu does not produce rhizomes, it produces stolons. See vine below.
root
The root of kudzu is carrot-like, but very fibrous. It is the energy storage organ of the plant, which fuels its initial growth in the spring until photosynthesis can sustain all growth. Diameters of several inches, weights of several hundred pounds, and depths of dozens of feet are not unusual. Harvesting large roots is an industry in Asia, where a white powder is extracted with desirable medicinal and culinary properties. Roots do not sprout, and they die if the crown is separated from them.
rootlet
Thin hair-like roots form from each vine node. When in contact with the ground, such roots can develop into large roots. One approach to limiting the growth of kudzu is to put something on the ground that prevents rootlets from rooting to the ground. Even thick grass inhibits rooting.
scaffolding
A place that gives kudzu an extra height, thereby extending its vertical reach up into trees or other tall objects that kudzu can climb. It might be a bush or debris on the ground. Click here and here for more information.
surgical crown removal
A method of killing a kudzu plant by separating a crown from the roots using a pruning saw or other cutting tool. The crown is set aside to dry, and thereby die. The roots are incapable of sprouting, so the roots die. Click here for more information.
vine
Kudzu vines can be nonwoody or woody, and grow from any stem node. New vines that form during a growing season are nonwoody and green. Older vines are brown and woody, and are attached to the crown. Nonwoody portions of vines die at the end of the growing season and decompose. Woody portions sprout new vines the next season. Kudzu vines form above ground, but woody vines are sometimes misidentified as underground rhizomes after being buried by organic debris or other material. Kudzu vines are more accurately called stolons. Scratching a woody vine that is at or near the surface of the ground has a pale-green pistachio color due to the presence of chlorophyll. This is how a woody vine can be distinguished from roots, which sometimes resemble woody vines. Scratching a root reveals a cream or pale-orange color.