Unlike that ever-popular late-night-marketed DVD, “Girls Gone Wild,” I doubt watching Kudzu grow (click on image above for larger view) will ever be as exciting as nubile college coeds doing things their mothers told them not to do. Yet, if you’re a botanist, I imagine these images to be nearly as thrilling.
On a recent trip into Northern Mississippi, I was surprised to see the extensive green carpets of this out-of-control weed. Initially imported from the Orient back in the 1950s for erosion control by well-meaning local governments, the fast-growing ground cover will cover literally anything it finds in its path (the image immediately above was a large hill entirely covered by kudzu). And since it can grow a foot per day, it doesn’t take long for killer kudzu to remold any landscape, choking and smothering any tree it covers (as evidenced by the topiary-like stumps in the top picture that used to be trees).
I’d seen this nasty stuff around Houston, where some bayou banks are literally a solid green carpet of kudzu, with no other vegetation recognizable. I didn’t realize it has extended north, but apparently it’s all over the south. Wikipedia sums things up pretty well in this paragraph:
Kudzu is sometimes referred to as “the plant that ate the South”, a reference to how kudzu’s explosive growth has been most prolific in the southeastern United States due to nearly ideal growing conditions. Significant sums of money and effort are spent each growing season to prevent kudzu from taking over roads, bridges, power lines, and local vegetation.