One vine mess: Photos capture kudzu winding through rural Kentucky landscape

gkocher1@herald-leader.comOctober 1, 2013 

Consider the kudzu vines of the fields, how they grow.

They toil not, neither do they spin. Yet even Solomon in all his glory was not equipped with enough landscapers and gardeners and hatchets and hoes and clippers and patience to trim them back and keep the dad-blame vines from overtaking all of civilization.

Okay, so Matthew 6: 28-29 doesn't say that. But there's no denying that kudzu is biblical in its proportions, and that its unending march to cover anything in its path is like something out of the Old Testament. (Which makes one wonder: perhaps Pharaoh would have released the Israelites a lot sooner had kudzu entered the mix before flies, gnats, hail, boils, frogs and the other plagues.)

When introduced into the United States in 1876 from Japan, the vine was used as an ornamental. Then, in the 1930s, it was used to control soil erosion. Before long, farmers took note of its rapid growth. Given the right conditions, it is said to grow a foot a day.

Which brings to mind the Mississippi farmer who told his county extension agent about the speed with which the vine overtook his fencerows. The extension agent told the farmer to simply have his children throw the runners over the fence.

To which the farmer dryly replied: "I don't have that many kids."

This same farmer, sometime later, saw a photograph of kudzu virtually cover a school bus like some green, slow-motion tidal wave.

"They must've parked it there overnight," he said.

Today the vine covers millions of acres throughout the southeastern United States. The University of Kentucky has looked at using goats to eat kudzu as forage.

In the meantime, kudzu, as dense and impenetrable as a William Faulkner novel, wends its tangled way into new ravines and roadsides. Verily, Solomon in all his glory would have been amazed at its tenacity.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @heraldleader.

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