NORTH ALABAMA (WHNT) — To most Alabamians, it’s just known as a nuisance. To others, kudzu is, un-affectionately, called “the vine that ate the South.”
Kudzu, while native to China, has slowly crept its way across the Alabama landscape over the last century. But what is it and how did it get here?
According to the Alabama Forestry Commission, kudzu is a “twining, trailing, and mat-forming woody vine.” Its stems grow up to 10 inches in diameter, but the vines themselves can grow up to 100 feet long, covering every single inch of tree, stump, and even that old, rustic truck in the backyard.
During the springtime, kudzu vines can grow as much as a foot a day, according to nature.org.
The Encyclopedia of Alabama states the vines began its takeover of the American Southeast in the 1930s – with a little help from the federal government.
In 1933, Congress established the Soil Erosion Service (SES), now known as the Natural Resource Conservation Service, to combat topsoil erosion during the Dust Bowl. For two decades, the organization distributed 85 million kudzu seedlings to southern landowners along with a check for anyone who would plant them.
By 1946, three million acres of farmland in the South were covered with seeds.
Since that time, kudzu has undergone numerous classifications. In the 1950s, it was removed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) list of acceptable cover crops. Just two decades later, it was demoted to a “common weed” status, and by 1997, Congress voted to acknowledge it as a “Federal Noxious Weed.”
What began as an effort to plant as much kudzu as possible now exists as an effort to destroy it – or at least, live with it.
As annoying as kudzu can be for some folks, it has become a normal part of life in Alabama.
The weed has inspired a plethora of websites, a jelly, soaps, baskets and handmade goods, candles, and even The Kudzu Café, a restaurant found in downtown Scottsboro.
While kudzu might be an annoyance, it appears to be here to stay.