Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fantastic vines

I've been fascinated for many years with the kudzu vine. Almost any novel written in the South describes the way kudzu, when left unfettered, will smother areas of land or structures in no time at all. One gets the feeling you could almost see it grow. In fact, some of its nicknames are "foot-a-night vine", "mile-a-minute vine", and "the vine that ate the South".

Japanese in origin, kudzu was introduced to Florida in 1876 as a forage crop. It is spreading at the rate of 150,000 acres annually. According to one website, instructions for planting kudzu back in the Depression went like this: Dump the shot out of a shotgun shell and replace with kudzu seed. Go out in your field and fire the shotgun. Run for your life and try to beat the kudzu back to the house. 
Imagine my delight when, on walking down the road to church on Sunday, this sight met my eyes. I knew instantly that it must be the mysterious kudzu.
When the vines get a good hold, as they often do, the scene takes on an other-worldly appearance. Trees become strange apparitions that look like crowds of portly, primeval, hominids or herds of  monsters, a la Maurice Sendak.
In spite of its proclivity for dominance in the southeastern American climate, kudzu has possibilities. Scientists are researching the use of an extract from the vine for curbing alcoholic cravings. It also has many medicinal applications already in use. The kudzu flower is sweetly scented and used to perfume soaps and lotions.

Like so many things in life, kudzu is both a curse and a blessing.

And down here in the South, I look for it where'er I wander.


  1. That is so cool looking! I know it's not always a good thing, but it looks neat!

  2. Ah yes ... the kudzu people! They're looking for you, Sue. I laughed out loud at your kudzu research. Great quotes and facts! Especially the part about beating it back to the house. Such fun. The vine that ate the South indeed.

    The Carolinas (and many folks in them) will miss you when you go back West!