Kudzu – neat information and a link to some cool photos!

If you’ve ever traveled into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, or the southern areas of Tennessee, you’ve surely seen kudzu.  The kudzu vine will grow practically anywhere over anything.  We have numerous patches here in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.  Have you ever wondered where this invasive weed comes from?

Kudzu was introduced into the United States by David Fairchild.  He had seen kudzu used as pasturage in Japan and brought some to the United States for display at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876.  In 1902 he planted seedlings of the vine around his home in Washington, D.C. to see what use they could be here.  Amazingly, over the next few years, people were selling kudzu hay and rooted cuttings through the mail so that people could start their own kudzu “crops”!  During the 1930s and 40s, the Soil Erosion Service actually PAID farmers $8.00 per acre to plant kudzu, particularly in the southern regions of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.  Do those areas sound familiar???  You can’t travel throughout these southern states today without seeing how the kudzu has overtaken the landscape.

Unfortunately, by 1938, David Fairchild realized that kudzu was very invasive, not easy to control and not easy to get rid of.  He stated that it was a huge “nuisance.”  Too bad no one figured this out sooner.  Despite attempts to stop the growth of this weed, it continues to spread and take over yards, crops, and even buildings and homes – mostly in the southeast.  In Japan under normal conditions, Kudzu grows at the same rate as most other vines, but in the American South, the temperature and climate are the optimal conditions for kudzu, which can result in growth of up to SEVEN (7) feet per week per plant!

When we were traveling out west, Chris and I should have taken a photo, but in one place we saw a homestead that was completely covered with kudzu.  I can’t remember where it was at the moment, but I don’t see how the people could have really lived there.  Outside was a sign that said, “KUDZU FOR SALE.”  We thought it was funny at the time, but I feel sorry for those people. 

Kudzu is very difficult to kill.  Some pesticides even promote its growth.  Burning it kills the outside growth, but hardens the seed coat, which just quickens the birth of new plants.  (Think of how a forest fire generates new growth for pine trees and other plants.)  You’d almost have to pull up every single little bitty kudzu vine to get rid of it, but as quickly as it grows, this would be very difficult to do.  There is research being done to see if some fungus or bugs (native to the United States) could kill the kudzu, but unfortunately most of these also kill off something else…

If you want to see some really cool photos of how kudzu can take over homes, other buildings, and just entire areas of land, check out this website.  http://www.jjanthony.com/kudzu/houses.html    It’s completely appropriate for kids and they might find it fascinating!  After looking at these photos, they might also be more willing to help you pull weeds in your yard.  : ) 

Sonya Haskins



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