"Stripping" is the name we use for removing all green leaves, sprouts, and buds from nodes and crowns.

How did this come about? In 2004 we encountered four large kudzu "stumps". Rather than dig down and cut under these crowns, we had the idea that maybe we could kill these plants in a manner similar to the way that grazing animals do — by defoliation. Our treatment in 2004 was to peel off all the sprouts every other week or so. This stripping off of the sprouts is much like the removal of suckers that grow from the trunks of maples and Yoshino cherries during the summer. Sometimes we snip those off. Sometimes we use a thumb and rub them off. By the end of the 2004 season, we noticed that two of these large kudzu stumps were producing no sprouts at all. Apparently, the regular removal of vines exhausted plant resources. These two produced no sprouts in 2005 and appear to be dead. The other two survived into 2005.

In some situations it is not practical to excise the crown. For example, kudzu may be growing in the space between two slabs of concrete. We run into this regularly under railroad overpasses where the upward sloping concrete meets the vertical concrete. Kudzu often grows in the half inch or so gap between them. We are not able to cut under the crown. We had five situations like this in 2005 at a railroad overpass. Another example is where kudzu has come up through asphalt paving. We have seen kudzu plants emerge through an abandoned parking lot. The pavement material makes it difficult to prune underground. Sometimes the kudzu "stump" in an open field is large and we are not able to cut under it easily. Or maybe we were just lazy and looked for an easier solution!

In summary, stripping off all green kudzu sprouts from woody vines on a weekly basis is an attempt to starve the roots by manual defoliation. Stripping imitates how goats kill kudzu by eating green leaves, vines, and buds. The Coalition conducted an experiment at its test site on a kudzu-covered plot approximately 16 feet square. Photographs show stripped biomass collected during the experiment monthly from June through October 2005. Note that the kudzu growing season is essentially over by October in our part of South Carolina, as can be seen from a chart posted elsewhere on this website. Click on any of these images for a larger view.

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The reduction in new sprouts achieved at the end of 2005, shown in the above photographs, was maintained the following spring through the peak of the growing season (May, June, and July 2006).

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During the first year of stripping (2005) two-thirds of the kudzu plants were killed. During 2006 another two-thirds were killed. The photograph shows a stripping in early July 2007 for the remaining 16 plants, out of about 150 original plants.

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The task is manual, but simple and quick. Flags mark new sprouts for stripping, or mark locations where stripping took place for tracking purposes. July 2005.

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Stripping is useful whenever it is impossible to surgically remove root crowns. (Also see burning and freezing treatments.) In this example at the South Pine St. railroad overpass, stripping eradicates kudzu where it grows between closely spaced concrete slabs: Persistent stripping eventually kills vines, both small young vines (left), and large mature vines (right). November 2005.

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Stripping: The Bottom Line

  1. Stripping is an effective non-chemical treatment for kudzu when crowns are rooted between sections of concrete pavement and underpasses, among rocks, next to culverts and building foundations, or under other unmovable objects.
  2. Approximately two-thirds of the crowns do not survive after the first season of weekly stripping. About one-half of the large kudzu crowns ("stumps") do not sprout, which means the smaller crowns are more susceptible to stripping. The amount of stripped biomass steadily declines during the first season.
  3. During the second season of treatment, any vines that grow are significantly shorter than during the first season of treatment (one foot or less versus several feet long). Approximately one-third of the crowns that sprout early in the year cease to sprout towards the end of the year. More than 80% of the original crowns are dead after the second season.
  4. Kudzu's seasonal growth cycle is such that the plant shifts from a growth phase, to a rooting and flowering phase in August, and then to a recovery phase in September and October where energy is stored in the roots in preparation for winter dormancy. Therefore, some reduction in stripped biomass during the year is due to seasonal cutback in growth. (These dates refer to kudzu growth in northwestern South Carolina.)
  5. The Coalition now recommends stripping every two weeks instead of weekly. Besides reducing the amount of labor, we suspect that the treatment is more effective because kudzu resources stored in the roots are exhausted more quickly. Further work is necessary to establish the optimal interval between treatments.
  6. Click here to see how stripping fits in with other kudzu control methods for small property owners.