Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kudzu keeps on growing

Kudzu grows so fast – as much as a foot a day – covering anything in its path.

Kudzu, that creepy crawly vine that is sometimes known to grow a foot a day and devour houses and cars, used to be quite popular in Florida and other parts of the southeast.

Back in 1876, a well-meaning Japanese delegation to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, delighted American fairgoers with the sweet-smelling, fast-growing vine they used to shade their exhibit booth.

All over the south people began planting kudzu as a porch vine, according to Florida Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff, a delightful book by David Grimes and Tom Becnel.

A Quaker couple, Charles and Lillie Pleas, moved from Indiana to Chipley in northwest Florida in the 1920s. They established Glen Arden Nursery and sold the plant to farmers by mail as forage for animals.

During the Depression, the Soil Conservation service promoted the vine as an erosion control plant species. The CCC planted kudzu far and wide.

In the 1940s, farmers could earn as much as eight bucks an acre to plant fields of the vines.

Little did anyone know that the vine would grow really, really well, and that it would grow up to be the scourge of the southeast. The problem is it chokes out other species, covers trees so densely it kills them, grows over abandoned houses and cars and anything else in its way.

Kudzu infestations got to be so bad that in 1972 the USDA declared it a nuisance weed. It's still a problem today. Just ask the public works folks in Quincy. The Gadsden County Times reports that creeping kudzu is such a problem that all city workers can do is treat it and cut it. There doesn't seem to be any way to stop it.

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