While we were talking about invasive species during the last class I began thinking about kudzu, the weed that has taken over the southern United States. I see more Spanish moss down here in Florida, but in North Carolina where I come from, you can hardly drive anywhere without seeing areas which have been completely taken over by this plant which shrouds and smothers all its competition. It’s most definitely bad news for the biodiversity of the regions which it has taken over, despite lending its own kind of beauty to the landscape.
After reading up on kudzu, I found out that it was brought over from Eastern Asia and introduced as an ornamental plant in the United States in 1876. It was promoted as a combatant for soil erosion by the United States Soil Conservation Service in the 1930’s, but by 1972 it was declared a weed.
Kudzu is resilient against droughts and frost, spreads quickly (up to 60 feet per season,) and is extremely difficult to get rid of. The United States has tried destroying it through mechanical, chemical, and biological means, attempting everything from mowing down the weed to treating it with herbicides to attacking it with certain species of beetles and fungi. Despite our best efforts, however, kudzu is still known as “the vine that ate the south,” and is still particularly rampant in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia.
I once saw a show on Animal Planet that mentioned goats and sheep as an effective means of eradicating kudzu. I came across this method again while browsing through several websites and, according to Wikipedia at least, these livestock are still the “mot efficient way to control kudzu.”
I still can’t claim to know more than a little about kudzu, but I have read that it may have some medical uses and can also be used in the preparation of food and tea. I wonder if trying to harvest and market it for some purpose would help or hurt us in our battle to stop its spread and preserve biodiversity in the south?