North Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee — September to December 2022
If you have traveled the back roads of the Southeastern United States you have undoubtedly seen it. You might not have known what it was, but the sight is remarkable. Kudzu, (usually pronounced cut-sue or cud-zoo) is a non-native plant with an apparent agenda to conquer the entire planet.
My annual late summer trek to the “night race” at Bristol Motor Speedway generally involves a side trip to Dawsonville, GA. Not to pay homage to the hometown race team of the NASCAR Champion Elliotts, Bill and Chase. But because my wife’s sister lives there. They catch up over the weekend together while I head for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at the “Last Great Colosseum” in Bristol TN.
Dawsonville is one of those places that you “cannot get there from here.” Located North of Atlanta in the Georgia foothills of the Smokey Mountains. No Interstate highway even comes close. Transversely, you can’t get anywhere fast from Dawsonville either. Winding country roads are the only way in and out. The isolation is great if you want to check out from almost everything, cellular service is spotty at best. However, the scenery is gorgeous. Until it turns scary!
Drive the roads heading north to the Carolinas and Tennessee at dawn or dusk and you can expect to be startled by monsters and gargoyles in the trees.
Even more alarming is the continuing expansion of the tree-killer weed. Trips to Martinsville, Virginia, and south to Gainsville, Fl revealed the further conquests of Kudzu.
The Kudzu Vine
Kudzu is an invasive plant that grows wild as a hearty vine. They say it thrives in the warm humid climate of the southern states and can add to its coverage at a rate of 12 inches a day. Yes, you read that right. If you don’t like its appearance today come back in a week and it will look entirely different.
It is native to Japan and China. You could fashion quite the scary fairy tale of it coming to the U.S. in a little old lady’s luggage. She lived in a house far back in the woods and wanted to have it adorn the walls of her home. The vine overgrew her cottage, found its way inside, and strangled the woman in her sleep. It then began its invasion conquering woodland after woodland across the nation. Not True! The actual story is Much Scarier!
The plant did come here as an ornamental growth around the year 1876. The Soil Conservation Service touted it as a good control plant to combat hillside erosion back in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s due to its rapid growth and strong root system. Unfortunately, it did not stop on the bare dirt. The weed vine covered everything in its path, old houses, trees, telephone poles, everything.
Kudzu growth is so prolific it will completely envelop a tree. With offshoots up to 100 feet long it can attach itself to anything nearby. Everything Kudzu covers the vine kills. Denying the plants underneath the vital sunlight needed to photosynthesize
It does not take much imagination to see outlines of ghosts, dinosaurs, mutants, aliens, or other horrible creatures where ever it takes a firm hold.
In the winter the leaves turn brown but do not die. Growth and green rebirth return in the spring. I am not sure if the Michigan climate is conducive to Kudzu’s survival. But I am sure we don’t want to find out.