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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Thursday - April 18, 2013

From: Las Vegas, NV
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Vines
Title: Growing kudzu in Las Vegas NV
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a question about a known invasive species that I know you advise against, but I feel my situation may be different enough that it's worth asking about. Yes, I'm talking about kudzu. I am on just over an acre in La Vegas and we have a half acre that is still natural desert. I am on a corner with street to my north and west, an empty lot to my east, and one neighbor to my south about 50 yards from the proposed kudzu plot. We are pretty isolated for our area. I have a desire to plant something that we can use as feed for our goats, and from what I have read, kudzu makes great , nutritious feed. I know there are dangers with kudzu taking over, but I was wondering if it is still risky in such an arid climate as we have. Our desert yard doesn't grow anything except a few sporadic natives, and I was thinking about making a plot of kudzu with a watering system to keep it alive. From what I understand, kudzu requires a lot of water, and it will not be able to find water anywhere we don't put it. My only concern is how the seeds spread. Will a little seed be able to find its way 50 yards to the neighbors house, over a 6ft block wall and into their grass to take over? We also have a grass plot in our backyard about the same distance away with a short picket fence. Other than that, we have no source of water 75-125 yards in every direction. So, is it really that risky in my environment to try and plant kudzu for feed? If so, do you have any other recommendation for a fast growing livestock feed that we can try instead? Thanks, I'll look forward to your reply!

ANSWER:

Here are two previous answers to help you understand how we feel about kudzu:

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Orem, UT

The Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants has this article on kudzu which establishes that it is pretty much a plant for eastern and southern areas in the United States.

Another article on the subject had this remark: "Kudzu grows best where winters are mild, summer temperatures are above 80°F and annual rainfall is 40 inches or more." From Wikipedia, we learned that average annual rainfall in Las Vegas is just slightly over 4 inches. So if we understand you correctly, you intend to dispense enough scarce and precious water in the middle of the Mohave Desert to keep kudzu alive so you can feed goats.

Please read this article What do Goats Eat?. From this article we gleaned these facts:

1.  If you don't have an acre or more, goats can eat numerous types of hay to make up for a lack of pasture or forage.

2. Keep about 6 to 10 goats per acre. The amount of goats will vary with the quantity and quality of browse available.

3. Hay is the general name for a number of dried grasses. Types of hay may also include legumes such as alfalfa and clover. Commonly used plants for hay include types of grasses such as Ryegrass, Timothy, Bluegrass & Orchard grass.

We are native plant gardeners, not agriculturists. Our conclusions from the information we gathered is that kudzu is not a particular threat to your area because you don't get enough rain, you don't have enough land to profitably raise goats, and there are probably other more useful things you could do with your property.

For the culture of animals, we suggest you contact the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Office for Clark County.

 

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