The Web of Life (22-6-2) Kudzu


Kudzu is a hardy perennial vine, originally native to the Japan. Kudzu was introduced to China and Korea centuries ago. In those countries, winter weather induces an aboveground die back, keeping the vine from becoming a nuisance.

Kudzu was introduced to the United States in 1876, at an exposition in Philadelphia. Its debut in the south was at a New Orleans exposition, in 1883.

From then, the vine was widely marketed in the southeast as an ornamental plant, to shade porches. During the first of the 20th century, kudzu was distributed as a high-protein fodder for cattle and employed as a cover plant to prevent soil erosion, especially during the Dust Bowl years, in the 1930s.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the federal government grew and subsidized planting kudzu. By 1946, 1.2 million hectares of kudzu had been planted.

Kudzu thrived in the subtropical southeast; so much so that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) removed kudzu from its list of suggested cover plants in 1953. In 1970, the USDA decreed kudzu a weed, whereupon kudzu became accursed as an invasive species.

All the while, in Japan and Korea, kudzu root is cooked and eaten, and used in herbal medicines. Kudzu is fed to sick animals to abet their recovery. The Chinese also use kudzu as a natural medicine, including as a treatment for alcoholism.