It's Out of Control !
Known as a mile-a-minute vine, foot-a-night vine, or the "Vine That Ate the South", kudzu has become the southern tourist attraction for the summer. People expect to see it. And see it they do.
Over seven million acres is covered with the fast growing vine.
History of the Plant
Kudzu was introduced into the United States at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Exhibiting countries brought in plants to be used as decorations in their exhibits. The Japanese brought kudzu.
The Japanese government created a garden and brought the wonderfully smelling and big leaved plant. It was at this time that the southerners decided to use it as an ornamental.
It was discovered in 1920 that animals would eat the plant, so it was then promoted as forage.
During the 1930s, the Great Depression era, the Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control. Through the Civilian Conservation Corps, men were given jobs planting kudzu.
Later, by 1940, farmers were paid by the acre to plant fields of it.
Most associated with the promotion of kudzu was Channing Cope from Covington, Georgia. On his radio program he advocated planting the "miracle vine". He even traveled throughout the South starting Kudzu Clubs.
By 1953 the U.S. government stopped advocating the use of kudzu.
Why? It grew too well. With the high humidity of the Southeast, it grew up to sixty feet each year - sometimes the proclaimed "foot a day". Then the destruction began.
Abuses and Uses
The vines began to destroy forest. It strangled trees and prevented them from getting sunlight. Herbicides have not proven successful. After repeated applications there is some diminished growth. Angora goats have proven somewhat effective. Grazing will eventually eradicate the kudzu.
People have come up with several uses for kudzu. Crafty baskets can be made with the vine, even paper. And, food: kudzu blossom jelly, syrup, kudzu quiche, and deep fried kudzu leaves.
Even bales of kudzu hay to feed cows. The hay is high in nutritive value. But it is a bit difficult to cut and bale.
Sadly, old homesteads have a shorter life when kudzu heads its way.
Keep your windows closed and the door shut when driving through. It just might come your way.
Emily: Kudzu is taking over our subdivision
Dear Emily: We are about to have a house built on a lot in a nice subdivision in Alabama, but our lot is now covered in Kudzu (we bought it two January's ago and the Kudzu was dormant of course). Our builder is about to bulldoze and burn it, but, since I have read that the roots go down 6', I fear this is just a temporary measure to rid our lot of the stuff. Some of our neighbors seem to be keeping a garden of Kudzu.
I am looking for a way to eradicate it from our lot but really hate the thought of 4-10 years of chemicals like I've read on a couple other sites. I wonder, since your site mentions animals grazing will eventually kill it off, could I just keep digging roots and cutting off vines?
A: You probably have a contract with the builder, so moving is out of the question.
Everything you say is correct. The roots go deep and it is a fast grower and will spread quickly.
Even the "Southern Living Garden Problem Solver" says to graze cattle on the kudzu.
Montana looks better all the time.