North Carolina's first Invasive Plants Awareness Week begins today. State officials are encouraging residents to keep aggressive vines like kudzu and wisteria out of their gardens. Experts say invasive plants can wipe out large areas of vegetation native to North Carolina. Debbie Crane of the North Carolina Nature Conservancy says they can also deal a blow to the state's tourism industry.
"Imagine places like Grandfather Mountain or Linville Gorge or the Outer Banks and imagine if you had plants move in there that destroy those natural ecosystems - that's what people come to see. Nobody comes to western North Carolina to look at a bunch of kudzu. They come here for other things."
Crane says invasive plants can also be devastating to North Carolina's crops. Kudzu has spread quickly since it was introduced to the United States in the 19th century. State officials say the vines cover an area in the Southeast equal to the state of Maryland.