More thoughts about kudzu

Published 4:01 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A few weeks ago I was telling a man from Alabama that we are making a conscientious effort to kill kudzu all around our area, with a few specific spots of concentration. His response was Good luck, but Im afraid that you are wasting your time. Im from Alabama and we have lots of kudzu everywhere. In fact, we sort of like the kudzu because it covers all the old junk cars and shacks along the roads. Since Ive been through Alabama many times, I know that what he says is true; but the comment has been nagging at me for some reason. It stuck with me for the very reason that it is true, sadly true.

Kudzu kills whatever is beneath it by taking all the sunlight and robbing whatever is beneath of sunlight and energy.&bsp; We could either say that it smothers the trees or whatever it covers, but it would be more accurate to say that it robs the tree of its energy source, the sun. If you think about it, one of the main reasons why kudzu has gotten so out of control is because it has been happily growing in marginal areas that no one cares about such as roadsides, steep banks (downward and out of sight), behind commercial buildings, and trashy areas that look better covered with kudzu because of the ugly trash beneath. One of the areas that I personally have been working on is the poorest neighborhood (now abandoned) near the old Saluda dump. The residents left Saluda years ago to find work elsewhere. The houses were not fine houses, and they have fallen down or burned down since the last of the residents left 20+ years ago. The entire area is now covered with kudzu, and it actually looks pretty nice to see a solid green cove as you drive past.

But there is a problem with covering up the ugliness. The kudzu is now approaching the nice neighborhoods closeby. Kudzu climbs upwards, looking for more sunlight. The upper-class neighborhoods are at the top of the hills, and the kudzu is now close enough that it is taking over yards of summer folks who are not around to keep the kudzu at bay. Now that those lots are completely covered, the kudzu is crossing streets and power lines to take over the yards of full time residents. Its a big problem for everyone now, and it keeps growing 6 to 12 inches a day, onwards and upwards.

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For&bsp; me, kudzu is an example of how we tend to ignore ugliness and unpleasantness as long as it has a pretty cover on it: out of sight; out of mind. It is just one of the many environmental problems that we have been able to ignore because it is in someone elses yard, and it is his problem and he should be the one cleaning it up. Just an hour ago, I heard a landowner tell me that her kudzu covered yard is the neighbors fault; it came from his yard. He, in turn, blames it on the highway department because the kudzu appeared on his land when they paved the road. Forget the fact that he wanted the road paved. The blame game is great talk, but it is also a way to avoid responsibility for a problem that we all share. Ultimately, a landowner is responsible for what happens on his or her property. If a tree blows over in a storm, the landowner wont get very far blaming the wind and expecting the wind to haul off the tree. We are stewards of our land, and that includes kudzu.

I believe that the pretty green blanket of kudzu needs to come off, even if there is some ugly trash underneath that will need to be dealt with, including abandoned cars and fallen down houses. In addition to the ugly things beneath the suffocating green blanket, there are young trees and wildflowers and yes, blackberries and multi flora rose bushes that are gasping for air and sunlight. If the green blanket is removed, maybe the rabbits, snakes, mice and lizards will come back too.&bsp; The space will be alive again, rather than remain the dead zone that it is now under the pretty green blanket.

Its time to be active stewards of the land rather than just talk about it.