kudzu ko͝od´zo͞o [key], plant of the family Leguminosae ( pulse family), native to Japan. Kudzu ( Pueraria thunbergiana ) has a woody stem, broad leaves, and clusters of large purple flowers. It is used as a cover crop, for pasturage and hay, and for controlling soil erosion in Asia, it is cultivated for its edible tubers and hemplike fiber. It was introduced in the United States c.1876 as a decorative vine. Later promoted for erosion control, its rank growth on roadsides, rail embankments, and forest edges in the South earned it a reputation (due in part to overestimates of its spread) as a noxious weed. Kudzu is classified in the division Magnoliophyta , class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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