The vine that’s eating the south OR kudzu.
Kudzu is a climbing, coiling and trailing vine that takes over anything in comes in contact with – fields, mountainsides, trees, utility poles – even the remains of a building.Its name comes from the Japanese name for the plant, Kuzu. It spreads by vegetative expansion, via stolons (runners) that root at the nodes to form new plants and by rhizomes.
Kudzu was introduced into the U.S. in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. It was promoted as an ornamental and forage crop. In the 1930s during the Great Depression, the Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control. Southern farmers were paid up to $8/acre to plant fields of the vines to reduce soil erosion.
Its flourishing in too well it and covers over seven million acres of the deep South and the climate of the southeastern U.S. is perfect. The vines grow as much as a foot per day during summer months, climbing trees, power poles, and anything else they contact. Under ideal conditions kudzu vines can grow 60 feet annually.
Because of its out of control growth in the southeastern U.S. kudzu is known by several names. . . foot-a-night vine, mile-a-minute vine, and the ever-popular vine that ate the South.The U.S. government stopped promoting kudzu in 1953, declaring it a weed in 1972 and a noxious weed in 1998. It has also been banned in 31 states.
The USDA National Invasive Species Information Center has an informative and entertaining video here.
However, the news about kudzu isn’t all negative:
- Its shown promise for treating Alzheimer’s' disease and may help diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Harvard Medical School is studying it as a possible treatment for alcoholism by turning an extracted compound from kudzu into a medical drug.
- In traditional Chinese medicine, kudzu is considered is used to treat tinnitus and vertigo.
- Vines have been used to create basketry and clothing.