Monday, June 16, 2008

The "Art of Kudzu" ...

I was born and raised in the South, where the word "kudzu" becomes part of a child's vocabulary probably at the age of three or four when they say, "Mommy (or Daddy), look at that big green dragon!" ... to which Mommy or Daddy replies, "Oh, that's not a dragon, that's kudzu."

Kudzu, which originated in Japan and China, was introduced to America in 1876 at the United States Centennial Exposition. It was originally presented as a decorative garden plant. In the 1930's, the U.S. Department of Agriculture planted thousands of kudzu seedlings along roads and hillsides to prevent erosion and it has had a strangle-hold on the South ever since.

I've always been fascinated with the amazing phenomenon called kudzu and appreciated the artful and eerie way its creeping vines drape over trees, power lines, old abandoned cars, barns, and houses, literally swallowing everything in its path. [See pictures below] In the summertime, its deep green leaves look so cool and inviting, and its pretty reddish-purple blooms are intoxicatingly fragrant. So, why does just the word kudzu strike fear and dread in the hearts of so many southerners? Please keep reading.

Kudzu Facts:

The roots of the plant may go more than twelve feet deep. The vines can grow a foot in length a day, and more than sixty feet over the course of a summer. Multiply that by lots of vines on lots of plants and you can see why kudzu is considered "the plant that ate the South." It's also known as the "mile-a-minute vine," "foot-a-night plant," and "cuss-you plant." In Mississippi alone, kudzu covers over 250,000 acres--and that's a lot of land that could be put to better use.

Almost anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line, you can find the vine growing on utility poles, fences, trees and anything else that doesn’t move.

Yet, even with its destructive reputation, kudzu is something of a cultural icon for the South. There is a restaurant in Atlanta named after it, a comic strip written & illustrated by Doug Marlette called “Kudzu,” and a southern rock band goes by the name Kudzu. James Dickey, the renowned southern poet, wrote a dark poem about the vine, called appropriately enough, “Kudzu.”

Kudzu is now common throughout most of the southeastern United States, and has been found as far northeast as Paterson, New Jersey, in 30 Illinois counties, and as far south as Key West, Florida. It was also found growing (rather inexplicably) in Clackamas County, Oregon in 2000.

Above information excerpted from Wikipedia and
Kudzu Chaos, by Jennifer Holloway Lambe

I thought it would be fun to share some of "the art of Mississippi kudzu" with you, so I grabbed my camera and headed out to explore the closest kudzu infestation, which is about eight miles from my house. Here are a few of the more interesting kudzu formations I discovered.

If you look closely at the picture below, you can see a school bus in the background which has almost been totally covered with kudzu.

It was kind of an eerie feeling standing so close to these creeping kudzu tendrils. They seemed to be easing closer and closer to my feet, reaching out like the tentacles of an octopus, and I didn't spend but a minute there.

O, Christmas Tree, O, Christmas Tree ...

The road to nowhere ...

I had a neat idea after I got home from taking the pictures, and I may go back one day soon and try it. [Most of my good ideas usually happen after the fact.]

I'm going to go early one morning and put a flag at the end of one of the kudzu tendrils and then go back at the end of the day and see how much it grew. Should be interesting ... and I'll take pictures to show you.


Anonymous said...

Morning Janie! I am supposed to be working on my painting/sewing room but taking a quick break.

This stuff is amazing!!!! It's like a forest of topiaries!! I've never heard of this so I learned a new word today. (thank you) This could be so much fun to have in a garden as long as you keep it trimmed I guess! Have a great day - Jeannette

Scooterblu's Whimsy~Rhonda said...

Janie, Cool pictures! We have kudzo here, in NC in bountiful plenties!!! LOL! Looking at your pictures, reminded me of looking at clouds...trying to imagine "shapes" in the formations of them! Be careful around the green may grow on you as you stand still! LOL! Just kidding! Great post!

Hugs, Rhonda

Picket said...

LOL Girl I know if you live in the South you got kudzu! lol It is scary how fast it will take over...we moved to the country once and the whole back of the property was covered in someone told me to get a goat and that they would eat the stuff...well I got a baby got and raised her as a pet and she never once took a bite of kudzu!!!! lol lol She did however love making a game of running by my ferns taking a bite off each one as I chased her around the house! lol lol Great info post girl!!!!

Unknown said...

Hi Janie,
I tagged you for a post on your 5 favorite things. Hope you don't mind...your blog was the first one I visited, and I still check with you daily!

PAT said...

Amazing photos, Janie! It will be interesting to see your photo of kudzu in the morning and evening. It's creeping into southern Missouri, also.


Julie @ Sweet Chaos said...

This really sounds like something you have to stay on top of to stop it from growing. Yuck.

My dad is from Northern Alabama and I have always seen these formations on our visits, but never knew what they were called. Now I know! Thanks for sharing!

Julie @ Sweet Chaos

Rue said...

Hi Janie :)

I always wondered what that stuff was! It was everywhere in Virginia. Great post!

Thank you for your prayers concerning my brother. He's going to be just fine :)


Cindy said...

I found your blog from Mantle Party and I need to tell you how much I enjoyed your post about Kudzu! I live in Maryland, but several years ago I went to Mississippi for the first time with my father (who was born there) and as we were driving I saw the incredible sights you wrote about and photographed. Beautiful and ominous at the same time! I would love to see your report on how much it grows!