Roadside Science

Exploring science from the roadside and beyond


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Dueling jewelweeds: Can native plants evolve to survive species invasions?

Kudzu in South Carolina. Photo by Bastique, Creative Commons.

Kudzu in South Carolina. Photo by Bastique, Creative Commons.

When I first saw kudzu I was not in the South, where entire states were swallowed whole by the vine, but in Pennsylvania. Philadelphians were calling in reports of the invasive plant and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture hired me to find out whether the reports were true, or whether the callers were confusing kudzu with some other vine gone rogue.

The callers were correct. I witnessed roadsides, railroad tracks, and bridges devoured by kudzu. An inner city summer camp was forced to abandon a playground because it didn’t have the resources to fight back the aggressive vine. A reverend enlisted congregants to slay kudzu from a church parking lot, only to find it sprawled over more parking spaces the following year. Continue reading