Kudzu: Destroyer of Plants

"Kudzu" by Katie Ashdown, via flickr

“Kudzu” by Katie Ashdown, via flickr

I’m sure we’ve all seen it, the kudzu that covers the foliage along the highway, and if you haven’t then you’re likely to in the future if it continues to grow at the rate it does now. Kudzu was introduced in the US in 1876 at the Philadelphia Continental Exposition, advertised as being a decorative bush that could easily provide shade. However, it wasn’t until later in the 30’s and 40’s that farmers were advised to use kudzu to limit soil erosion–a noble cause for an out of control weed. Unbeknownst to me, kudzu is actually useful in several ways, ranging from basket weaving material to grazing for animals and even to some medical benefits (especially in traditional Chinese medicine). 

It’s nice to consider the positives of kudzu, but the reality is that it is an invasive species and has gotten out of control over the years. In fact, a mature plant can grow at a rate of up to one foot per day (currently covering around 7 million acres in the southeast) and it is not threatened by any other species. Also, while the idea of the shade kudzu can provide is a nice notion for us humans, it doesn’t bode well for the flora that happen to rely on the sun for survival. As the kudzu grows in the quick way it does, it blocks out most sunlight for the hosting plant, and can even uproot plants and trees. Some ideas for eradication have come through, but as the following video states, our only hope may be containing the beast rather than eliminating it.

 

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