It always starts with good intentions.  A hopefulness that something will fill the empty spaces where something else has been lost.  Entanglements ensue, and soon the solution is worse than the problem.

Southern soil, worn-out and stripped of nutrients by King Cotton and the Great Depression.  Summer downpours on sandy-clay became rivulets, ditches, gullies.  Worthless hardscrabble land swept along the current to the Gulf of Mexico.

As with most bad ideas, a solution came from the government.  Import a vine from Japan to shelter the soil from the impact of the rain drop. Growth so fast a man could almost hear it.  Green tendrils and wide leaves with late-summer purple blossoms hanging in the scorch like little clusters of grapes.

Initial trials went well.  If a little was good, a lot must be better.

A million acres were cultivated by farmers in the 1930’s and 40’s.  Hope and dollars in short-supply back then.  Paid-out at the rate of eight dollars per.  Better money than cotton or tobacco.  Better money than most anything.

Stopped the erosion, but it would not stop.  Covered trees, pastures, roadsides.  Anything it could cling to.  A little sunlight and a little space and a little time lead to a big problem.  Nobody knows how many million acres today.

They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  The roads in Alabama are lined with them.

No longer able to pay eight dollars per acre, the government simply plants it for us as they mow the right-of-way.

kudzu spread





10 thoughts on “Kudzu

  1. This is SO good – I passed it on to my husband, who was an architect by trade but a forester at heart. I wonder if there are any good invasive species. Can you think of any?

  2. Well, that’s a sight I don’t much miss though sometimes it can certainly get interesting, like in the top photo. Won’t be long before that school bus disappears entirely. And it looks like it was in pretty fair shape. Lots of those retired buses ended up in Mexico, by the way, all over the place.

  3. I should be careful for what I wish for. I live in a newly constructed home high on a bluff overlooking the Vermillion Valley. But what I see first is my ugly, barren back yard, void of any vegation for the past year due to excavation and our poor soil of clay and sand with a bit of rock here and there. I long to see green but it’s now summer and new grass growing is prohibitive water cost wisem so we must wait for Fall to seed. I would take some temporary Kudzu if there was such a thing!

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