The Vine That Swallowed The South

First imported in the year 1876
to young America from old Japan,
then widely planted in the 1930’s
to prevent erosion of the land,
this vine during summer months
can grow up to a foot every day,
completely covering any immovable
object that happens to be in its way.

A member of the bean family,
it produces pods for its seed.
Despite pleasantly sweet-smelling,
magenta blossoms, it’s just a weed!
Out of control, this vine now covers
seven million acres in southern states.
Only winter halts its relentless growth.
Then it patiently just sits, sits and waits.

With spring, the dormant vines resume
their growing as wildly as they please.
Good uses include making bales of hay.
Some folks even eat its deep-fried leaves
or make it into a sweet jelly for their toast.
It does make quite nice baskets, some say,
and upon fields covered by it, goats happily
will graze as they eat their fill of it all day.

Now this vine’s overly exuberant growth
all herbicides tried have failed to control.
So, despite its value in foods or herbal
medicines that some people do extol,
it remains a particularly odious plague.
Noxious vine, everyone knows you
without doubt throughout the Deep South
as that cursed nuisance called…KUDZU.

Harry Edward Gilleland      05.22.04