Everything you ever wanted to know about kudzu

I’m a fan of what’s known as “long form journalism”.  It’s the type of article that takes more than one sitting to read, unless you have a free afternoon.  Unlike the typical 300-500 word news article, it covers a topic in depth.

This morning I visited Longreads, a site devoted to long form journalism, and was thrilled to find a link to a Smithsonian Magazine article about kudzu, the Japanese weed which has become a symbol of the American South.  Growing up in the Grant Park neighborhood of Atlanta, I was in awe of the kudzu that covered vacant lots, and became convinced that within a few decades the entire state of Georgia would be a tangled mass of kudzu, irretrievable short of nuclear annihilation of the weed.

The True Story of Kudzu, the Vine That Never Truly Ate the South” gives a much more detailed, and less alarmist view of this invasive plant.  Kudzu, the article explains, was introduced to the South during the Great Depression.  Farmers were paid up to $8 per acre to plant the weed for erosion control, and railroad and highway developers planted kudzu to increase the stability of the walls of clay they were creating by grading the land for roads and track.

While kudzu is an invasive non-native plant, with all the problems that brings for our local ecosystem, its coverage and the speed of its growth  is often exaggerated.  Privet, another introduced species, is much more invasive, and covers 14 times the acreage of kudzu.  Even invasive roses cover 3 times more of our land area than kudzu.  That may not console you if kudzu is encroaching on your yard, but for thorough and balanced information on this fast-growing Asian weed,  “The True Story of Kudzu, the Vine That Never Truly Ate the South” is a good starting point.