Friday, February 17, 2017

Mississippi Learnin': Kudzu - The Vine that Ate the South

I first noticed it in Bristol, VA, and then I noticed it everywhere.  Devouring small bushes, overtaking large trees; it was an unstoppable force hellbent on swallowing the South.  But what was it?

Atlanta, GA Kudzu Infestation (via Wikipedia)

It wasn't until I reached Jackson that I finally had kudzu explained to me.  Kudzu is an invasive, leafy vine that was brought to America from Southeast Asia in the late 1800's for the purposes of erosion control.  Those were the Dust Bowl days, and we needed something to end John Steinbeck's subversion, so kudzu was imported.  And holy shit did it ever control erosion.  Growing its vines at a rate of about a foot a day, kudzu is a beast of a plant that has no naturally occurring competition in America.  The picture above should give some idea of what it's capable of, but the picture below should really hammer home how ridiculous this plant is:

Photo from:

Get it?  Hammer home?  That's a house in the middle of all of that kudzu.  Ugh, tough crowd.  In any case, this is what the kudzu can do if left unchecked.  It will grow over any surface in order to get as much sun as possible, parasitically using the height of taller plants to steal that delicious sunshine, killing them in the process.  Can you imagine going on a two week vacation and finding thousands of 14' vines climbing up your walls?

As we drove around Mississippi, we saw infestations of kudzu all over, turning an arboreal landscape into menacing green walls.  I've never seen anything like it, and I really hope M. Night Shyamalan never visits the south, because I don't think the world is ready for The Happening 2: Attack of the Kudzu.  Could you imagine?  A future where global warming has left kudzu growth unchecked as low-altitude frost is only a vague memory.  Civilization is forced to move to higher and higher elevations to escape the crawling vines, eventually building homes on towers high up in the sky.  And then the big reveal... The movie is just the prequel to The Jetsons.  No thank you.  Either that or he'd rip of Cat's Cradle and kudzu would be a biological ice-nine.  Also no thank you.

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