PLUNK GENEALOGY -- see "Family" label on this blog and/or write Mike at

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


When Mike and I got off the freeway Saturday to drive over to Sardis Dam, I saw something along the two-lane road that I hadn’t seen in years: kudzu. It’s a plant that epitomizes the concept of a good idea gone bad.

Kudzu plants were imported from Japan and China in 1876 as a forage crop and ornamental plant. Because of the warm temperatures, usually generous rainfall, humidity and mild winters, kudzu loved the southeastern U.S., and from 1935 until the early 1950s, the Soil Conservation Service encouraged farmers to plant it to combat soil erosion. Farmers and the Civilian Conservation Corps did so, and kudzu took off like an alien invader bent on conquering the earth. As a matter of fact, I’ve contemplated that possibility.

As kudzu began to spread rapidly, they also discovered that it’s difficult to stop. Oops. Driving down smaller roads in the South, you’ll see trees, utility poles and even abandoned houses that have been covered by kudzu. I told you it’s like a horror flick.

In 1953, the Department of Agriculture designated kudzu as a pest weed and removed it from the list of permissible cover plants. They stopped planting it, but eradication is quite difficult and, if you turn your back, it’s covered something else that moves more slowly than it does. Kudzu produces “runners” which then set down roots and produce more traveling runners. Some accounts say that it can grow 18 inches a day.

True story: The mother of a friend of Mike’s was in poor health and her family needed to move her closer to them. She had a house and a little land in north MS, but the friend first had to clear out the house and clean up the property before it could be sold. There was a large area covered thickly with weeds and kudzu that was a real . . . well *pain* to clear out. But there was a reward. Underneath the kudzu he found a full-sized school bus. I know what you’re thinking. I asked the same question. The bus was empty, but I have a feeling that the kudzu was disappointed.

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