Friday, July 31, 2009

Kudzu - The Vine That Ate the South

In 1876, the lush green leaves and fragrant purple flowers enchanted visitors to the Japanese Pavilion at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and gardeners were eager to add this exotic Japanese vine to their collections.

Those who lived in the South quickly found that kudzu, given warmth and moisture, can grow as much as a foot a day. And cattle will eat it! An enterprise was born and "the miracle vine" was planted on farms as well as in gardens.

In the 1930s, the soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control and farmers were paid to plant it.

It's estimated that around 7 millions acres of the Deep South are covered by kudzu. It can kill trees by keeping the sun from them. Pesticides can't destroy it -- one actually makes it grow faster. Goats can wipe it out -- for a while.

Kudzu is one of many introduced plants that, without natural enemies, can take over. Multiflora rose, bittersweet, and water hyacinth are some others.

We have the roses and the bittersweet on our farm -- but, thank heaven, no kudzu . . . yet.

It's just across the river . . . and growing.

(Here's a terrific site that tells even more of The Amazing Story of Kudzu)
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Merisi said...

That plant is a real threat, as if out of a SF story! I once read that it manages to jump across wide rivers, like the Mississippi.

Driving from Maryland into Washington DC along the Potomac,
there's a sea of Kudzu along the river bank, covering even the tallest trees.

Vicki Lane said...

It's truly creepy stuff -- in every meaning of the word!

Stella Jones said...

Yes, I've seen it, whilst driving around in Tennessee and the Carolinas. It is an amazing plant and not welcome anymore, I'm sure. We have Japanese knotweed over here, another invasive horror. I hope someone finds a way to get rid of this trifid pronto.
Wish I lived in Asheville. I'd love to come to your lessons.
Blessings, Star

Merisi said...

Yep! :-(

Here is the link to David McMahon's posts about cameras. I added a few more words in the comments section of the "Evening Rose" post.

A wonderful weekend to you!

Tammy said...

We don't have Kudzu here...yet. But it is down in Arkansas. I traveled with my sister down there several times, and somberly pointed out every kudzu smothered tree (not having ever actually seen the stuff before.). She was pretty close to throttling me by the end of the trip. Around here it is multi-flora rose. I have old farm magazines from the 30-40-50s and in some they tout the benefits of Multi-flora roses--'strong, natural' fences. As I'm reading these old articles I'm saying, no-no don't do it! Since I got the sheep though, my battle with the rose has been won. :-) Thanks for an interesting post. Those pictures are very scary!

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Kudzu is one of the most awful things in the world to invade our beautiful south. It's a shame it comes back after the goats eat it - must mean it's stronger than tin cans.

Vicki Lane said...

Star, I wish you were here. I really enjoy the classes I teach and have such a variety of writers -- literary fiction, chick lit, mystery, memoir, southern lit, Sci Fi, fantasy, paranormal -- pretty much everything.

Thank you, Merisi, I've checked out David's blog and all those helpful answers, and have been traveling the blogosphere checking out various camera. The TZ7 (which is called the ZS3 over here) sounds pretty terrific.

I'm trying to put the idea of the SLR on hold. It'll take me a little time to explore the capabilities of the new Lumix.

Tammy, Yep we could use sheep or goats to deal with our grapevine/multiflora/honeysuckle problems. Keeping them in and safe from dogs (including our own) is the problem as we found when we tried goats.

Hey, Sam -- Someone, I think Karen in NJ, commented yesterday that she'd made your corn cakes after I carried on about them!

Eliane Zimmermann said...

anyway a lovely plant - but it's a pity that it became such an invasive weed. I am currently doing some research about the healing properties of it's root powder. among zillion other good properties the powder is supposed to really help against sweet and nicotine cravings and is used as such in French naturopathy.

Vicki Lane said...

A plant full of tantalizing possibilities, Eliane -- but too much of a good thing when it goes wild.