A Brief History Of Kudzu
Kudzu was introduced to the South in the early 20th century in an attempt to provide improved fodder for cattle. It worked ALL TOO WELL. Cattle do love kudzu but not nearly as much as kudzu loves The South. The southeastern Uinted States provides nearly ideal climate and growing conditions for this rapid growing and hardy perennial (that’s “hardy”, as in calling nuclear weapons “explosive”).
People have been known to leave home on vaction down here only to return a week later to find cars and other LARGE objects buried under it’s lush greenery. It climbs telephone poles and crosses wires. It’s eradication is a major expense to utility companies. The City of Atlanta has used bulldozers to dig up the tubers in vacant lots. It’s resistant to most “safe” chemicals although 2,4,D has some effect if used frequently enough. It’s sometimes call “yard-a-night” down here because that’s how fast it seems to grow. The only question seems to be whether the “yard” referred to is that of “3 feet” or that of “front and back”. Rumor has it that some of the roads in the more rural areas don’t get enough traffic and will be covered by kudzu after a long holiday weekend.
It is a very pretty vine in early spring and summer. It’s broad leaves and flowers are quite attractive until you start to realize that the dead stick that it’s sunning itself on, use to be a huge pine tree. In the winter, the first hard frost turns kudzu into tons of ugly brown leaves and thick vines. The plant regrows new vines from the ground up every year, so you can see it’s growth rate must be phenomenal. I understand that the Japanese make a highly regarded form of tofu from kudzu tubers. It is supposed to be prized for it’s nutty flavor (soy tofu is rather bland). The Japanese cannot produce enough to meet their own demand and think we’re NUTS for trying to eliminate it. I haven’t been able to confirm this use for kudzu, but, if true, they may well be right. We’ve got plenty of hungry people and LOTS of kudzu!
The existence of kudzu in a neighborhood has been known to adversely affect property values. The threat of planting kudzu in someone’s yard is generally considered an extreme case of “fightin’ words”, potentially followed by “justifiable homicide”. Regardless, you can still obtain kudzu seeds from several major seed companies who list it as a “hardy ornamental perennial”. If understatement was a crime they’d be history.