Discovered on Lake Erie shore

By Sharon Hill, The Windsor Star September 23, 2009

The fast-growing kudzu vine, dubbed “the vine that ate the South,” has been found in Leamington.

“It can just take over anything,” said Kristen Callow, the weed management program lead for horticulture crops with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture. “It can grow a foot a day.”

It’s a devastating find because “the potential for spread is so severe,” Callow said Tuesday.

Experts say the discovery of the invasive vine for the first time in Canada is worrying because in the southern United States, the vine takes over fields, fences, signs, hydro poles, trees and even houses. It can grow 30 centimetres a day and during a season can grow up to 30 metres. One root system can produce up to 30 vines.

It also is a host to a disease called soybean rust that can wipe out a soybean crop in a week, Callow said.

The Ontario Invasive Plant Council is working with the agriculture ministry and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to plan a way to kill it in Leamington.

The vine is covering an area of about 120 metres by 50 metres by the Lake Erie shore in Pigeon Bay. It’s on private land.

The vine could be sprayed with a herbicide or dug up. Cattle and pigs have been used to eat the vine in the States, but the kudzu is on a bank along Lake Erie so that may not be attempted.

Ontario Invasive Plant Council co-ordinator Rachel Gagnon said the vine likely won’t endure the winter but the roots can go three metres into the ground, so scientists aren’t certain the vine will be killed by the cold during the winter.

And if it got here this summer, kudzu vine could come back, Gagnon said.

“If Ontario starts becoming a better area for this plant, it could become a huge problem.”

Gagnon said it costs around $500 million annually in lost cropland and in control measures.

The vine has taken over almost 10 million acres in the U.S., according to the United States Department of Agriculture website.

Kudzu vine is a member of the pea family from eastern Asia. It was brought to North America in 1876 for a U.S. centennial exhibition and later farmers were encouraged to grow it to stop erosion. By the 1950s and 1960s it was seen as a problem.

The climbing vine looks woody but is said to feel spongy and emit a menthol smell when cut. It has three leaflets per leaf and a pink flower in the summer. It grows in open fields and forests.

It is found in the southern States and is also in Ohio and Michigan. Gagnon said a piece of the vine could have floated across the lake from Ohio.

If the vine has made it to Leamington it may be elsewhere in Essex County, she said.

The Ontario Invasive Plant Council wants people to be on the lookout for the vine, but are asked not to remove any part of the plant to prevent its spread.

Instead, take a picture of it and call the invading species hotline at 1-800-563-7711.

Experts can confirm from the photo if the vine is kudzu.


Ontario has more than 440 species of invasive plants which is more than any other province.

Ontario Invasive Plant Council

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