Natural and human dimensions of a quasi-wild species:the case of kudzu

  • Authors: Li, Zhenyu; Dong, Quan; Albright, Thomas; Guo, Qinfeng
  • Publication Year: 2011
  • Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
  • Source: Biol. Invasions 13:2167-2179


The human dimensions of biotic invasion are generally poorly understood, even among the most familiar invasive species. Kudzu (Pueraria montana (Lour.) Merr.) is a prominent invasive plant and an example of quasi-wild species, which has experienced repeated introduction, cultivation, and escape back to the wild. Here, we review a large body of primary scientific and historic records spanning thousands of years to characterize the complex relationships among kudzu, its natural enemies, and humans, and provide a synthesis and conceptual model relevant to the ecology and management of quasi-wild invasive species. We documented over 350, mostly insect, natural enemy species and their impacts on kudzu in its native East Asian range. These natural enemies play a minor role in limiting kudzu in its native range, rarely generating severe impacts on populations of wild kudzu. We identified a number of significant influences of humans including dispersal, diverse cultural selection, and facilitation through disturbances, which catalyzed the expansion and exuberance of kudzu. On the other hand, harvest by humans appears to be the major control mechanism in its native areas. Humans thus have a complex relationship with kudzu. They have acted as both friend and foe, affecting the distribution and abundance of kudzu in ways that vary across its range and over time. Our conceptual model of kudzu emphasizes the importance of multiple human dimensions in shaping the biogeography of a species and illustrates how kudzu and other quasi-wild species are more likely to be successful invaders.

  • Citation: Li, Zhenyu; Dong, Quan; Albright, Thomas; Guo, Qinfeng 2011. Natural and human dimensions of a quasi-wild species: the case of kudzu. Biol. Invasions 13:2167-2179.
  • Keywords: Control mechanisms, Human domestication, Invasive species, Natural enemy, Pueraria montana, Utilization
  • Posted Date: September 27, 2011
  • Modified Date: October 4, 2011
  • Print Publications Are No Longer Available

    In an ongoing effort to be fiscally responsible, the Southern Research Station (SRS) will no longer produce and distribute hard copies of our publications. Many SRS publications are available at cost via the Government Printing Office (GPO). Electronic versions of publications may be downloaded, printed, and distributed.

    Publication Notes

    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
    • Our online publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat. During the capture process some typographical errors may occur. Please contact the SRS webmaster if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • To view this article, download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.