Kinda sounds like a sneeze. It certainly isn’t a blessing but that’s exactly the type of challenge that I enjoy. The “you’ve gotta be kidding me you’re gonna tackle that” kind of challenge. The reality is our family isn’t afraid of a challenge. It’s a learning process. A way to discover it’s ok to fail then get up and try again until you succeed. It’s the heart of homesteading. It’s how we roll.
Kudzu, also known as Japanese arrowroot, is a coiling, trailing, climbing perennial vine in the legume family. It’s native to most of eastern and southeast Asia, and when it becomes naturalized, it’s considered a noxious weed and in many areas extremely invasive.
How do I look at life’s little failures? As the great Danny Kaye once said:
Mistakes are just paint. Different colors tossed all over the canvas of life. So when I see a single color (in this case green) I see a challenge! We need more color! Or llamas…. but I digress.
One of the most noticeable challenges on our property is kudzu. What is kudzu? It’s a climbing, semi-woody, perennial vine in the legume family that, per The Nature Conservancy, has the potential to reach up to 100 feet in length. I call it THE BEAST. Lovingly of course. Lest it crawl in through my window at night and attack me. À la, Little Shop of Horrors. Shiver.
How did it get to the United States? The government brought it here. You see, it was introduced to the U.S. at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. The Japanese government built a beautiful garden exhibit overflowing with their native plants, kudzu being one of them. It was billed as a forage crop and an ornamental plant. With the plant’s large bright green leaves and sweet-smelling purple and white blooms, gardening attendees were charmed by it. Little did they know. Cue the scary organ music…
When the Midwest suffered through the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s, the Federal Government learned of kudzu’s value as a quick growing plant that could control erosion, enhance soil and create jobs. The government paid workers to sow topsoil with kudzu. Also, many southern farmers were encouraged to plant kudzu for erosion control from the mid 1930’s to the mid 1950’s. Did I mention kudzu will grow over anything in its path (other plants, buildings, road signs, tractors, slow moving people, kittens) and will eventually kill other plants it covers because it blocks out sunlight? Kudzu will also encircle tree trunks, break branches, and uproot trees and shrubs through the mass of vegetation produced. Kudzu has been reported to grow roughly one foot per day once established. Some folks have said they have actually watched it grow. This is a challenge of epic proportions!
To get to the root of the problem…well… you have to get rid of the roots. This may sound easy but when you stand in front of a “grove” of kudzu the reality hits you (or at least it hit me). Snakes. How can I see snakes in this twisted mass of vines and leaves? If it has to be eradicated by the root we will have to march into the unseen. There’s no way to see below theses vines. Unless… they die back. Which, as winter has recently hit, we found they DO die back! That leaves us with digging this mess up in the cold. Now, I said I don’t mind a challenge but I don’t search out discomfort. I can wear a cowgirl hat AND tiara at the same time thank you very much!
Several plans of action are being formulated:
- Let it die and dig up roots during the colder months. Meh.
- Llamas. My favorite choice. Yes, these adorable creatures will EAT kudzu!
- Find something to do with it. Get crafty with it. My other favorite choice. Perhaps it can involve Mason jars!
Shockingly, there ARE uses for our Beast. In Traditional Chinese Medicine kudzu is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs. It’s taken as a medicinal tea to treat the symptoms of high blood pressure such as headache and dizziness (although kudzu has little or no effect on blood pressure itself). Kudzu powder is also taken internally on a regular basis to prevent recurrences of colds sores, shingles and surprisingly, effects from alcohol-related problems. However, lets be clear… there’s no problem with bourbon ~ just sayin’.
In the United States, kudzu has been used as
llama livestock feed, in fertilizer and the vines have been used for folk art. In Korea, kudzu root is harvested for its starch, which is used in various foods as well as a health food and herbal medicine. Kudzu is also used as a food crop in Java, Sumatra, and Malaya, and can be found in Puerto Rico and South America. This Beast gets around!
For now we have options and that’s always a good thing!
Sometimes the challenge is seeing the Beauty in the Beast, even if it does involve snakes.
Have you ever had to get rid of an invasive plant? Did it stay gone?