The Ohio Woodland Stewards Program has created a poster and app to help Ohioans spot and report kudzu vine, the so-called "plant that ate the South."
An invasive species, kudzu has been reported in at least 15 of Ohio's 88 counties, mostly in the southeast part of the state but also in Summit and Cuyahoga counties in the north, according to the national Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS).
"Kudzu is in scattered spots in Ohio. One of the reasons for the poster is to get a better idea of where and how much of a problem it is," said Kathy Smith, the program's director. "We're hoping to raise awareness of kudzu specifically and of invasive species in general."
Specialists with the program, run by Ohio State University Extension, created and are distributing a new identification poster featuring the climbing, entwining, engulfing invader.
Smith said she hopes the poster leads to more Ohioans identifying kudzu, which they can then report using the program's free Great Lakes Early Detection Network (GLEDN) smartphone app. Early detection can lead to better and cheaper control, she said.
The app can be downloaded at go.osu.edu/GLEDN.
Kudzu grows fast, smothers everything in its path - including trees, buildings and utility poles - and is difficult and expensive to get rid of once established.
In all, kudzu covers about 8 million acres of land in the U.S., mostly in the Southeast, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.
The weed costs an estimated $500 million a year in the U.S. in control efforts and the damage it causes to forest productivity.
There is also concern that another damaging invasive species, the kudzu bug, may follow the plant to Ohio.
Already widespread in the South, the kudzu bug feeds not only on kudzu but also on soybeans, whose annual contribution to the Ohio economy is more than $5 billion, according to the Ohio Soybean Council.
The kudzu bug, about the size of the multicolored Asian lady beetle, also swarms on and invades homes in fall, seeking a place to spend winter.
Smith said the kudzu bug has not yet reached Ohio. If sighted, residents can report the bug by using the GLEDN app.
Information from the GLEDN app feeds into the EDDMapS system, which scientists use to track and manage many invasive species around the U.S. including Asian carp, zebra mussels, emerald ash borers, thousand cankers disease and hemlock woolly adelgids.
Copies of the kudzu poster have been sent to Ohio's state forests, OSU Extension county offices and farming- and natural resource-related agencies, with further distribution to come in cooperation with the Ohio Invasive Plant Council, Smith said.
For a free copy of the poster, contact the Ohio Woodland Stewards Program at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-688-3421.
The poster was published with funding from the Renewable Resources Extension Act through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.