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ORRIN MORRIS: Kudzu a serious problem in the Southeast

Morris artwork for 09/09

Morris artwork for 09/09

The Psalmist wrote, "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His deeds" (145:17).

Some of you will find it hard to associate that verse with the kudzu vine; however, its original purpose was noble. The early kudzu plants lived up to their expectations, but in the Southeast, they kept growing, and growing, and growing.

KUDZU

Pueraria lobata

One hundred years ago Kudzu was imported to America from Asia to retard the erosion of soil.

In the North, the plants were easily contained by the frigid winters. In the South, the longer growing seasons and the mild winters allowed the plants to exceed all expectations, especially in sandy soils. Its growth was so vigorous that it escaped cultivation and is dreaded by most landowners.

The kudzu plant has a hairy stem and grows rapidly, reaching as high as 100 feet up nearby trees. Throughout the Southeast, it dies back at frost, lies dormant during winter, and vigorously leaps forth in the spring. It is not unusual for it to grow at the rate of 18 inches a day.

The leaves of the kudzu are pinnate but the three lobes are odd shaped, that is, not symmetrical.

Blooms appear in late August and early September, as sketched. However, I have not seen any blooms this year. It may be I have not been as vigilant as usual, or perhaps the extreme drought conditions have retarded the display.

The pea-like flowers nearest the stem are deep purple. The color gradually lightens to lavender or white for the new flowers at the top of the cluster. The blossoms have a sweetish fragrance that seems unique to me.

There is no medicinal record for the kudzu in the herb books I have been consulting.

Kudzu can be controlled but it requires vigilance. It is easily mowed and in severe drought conditions serves as a forage for cattle. It can be eradicated with chemical herbicides or controlled by fall plowing that exposes the roots to winter's freezing temperature.

The Psalmist was correct when he noted that God is "kind in all His deeds." The Kudzu plant helped restore many acres of cropland that was severely eroded during the Dust Bowl Days.

However, once the well-meaning but ill-informed persons introduced the kudzu to the Southeast, it has become a serious problem, similar to the wild privet, featured on May 13, 2006.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His e-mail is odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com or call him at 770-929-3697.