If you live in the Southern part of North America, as I do, you will not find this picture unusual. These are trees and a field that have been completely covered with KUDZU. When winter arrives the foliage will lose it’s green color and you are able to see what’s underneath. However this does not mean that the plant will be eradicated. The minute that our weather turns warm we are back where we started ... overrun with KUDZU.
It seems impossible that all of this growth has evolved from one simple plant that was not even native to our land. In 1876 the United States celebrated our centennial and countries were invited to build exhibits at the Philadelphia Exposition. The Japanese Pavilion was especially elaborate, festooned with the large leaves and delightful grape-smelling purple flowers of the imported ZUDZU plant.
This quick growing plant caught the eye of government officials and by the 1930’s the Soil Conservation Service paid hundreds of men to plant KUDZU. It was used to prevent soil erosion and as forage for cows, pigs and goats. By 1953 the USDA stopped advocating the use of KUDZU and in 1972 it was declared to be a weed !
Today, KUDZU covers 7 million acres of land in the southeast and is spreading at a rate of 120,000 acres a year. Although KUDZU causes much damage and I’m sure that the cost to keep it contained must be astronomical there seems to be little that the states have done to keep it in check. I do know, however, that in Florida and Mississippi they are experimenting with grazing goats amid the KUDZU.
But I keep thinking that a country that is not as “rich” as ours would surely have taken advantage of this voluptuous crop long before now. KUDZU has great nutritional value and can be fed to most livestock. The vines are excellent basket making material and many food products can be made from the plant. More importantly, KUDZU shows great potential for medicine.
Can you imagine any of the impoverished countries of the world letting an abundant crop such as this go to waste ... and, what’s worse, complaining about it?
Something to ponder…..