The Vine That Ate the South

I first became aware of kudzu traveling the highways and byways of Georgia. It was a mystery to me; I just knew it grew like crazy and looked lovely. I even included it in a poem I wrote back in September of 2012; a play on Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.

The Roads Taken

Two roads converged in a Georgia town

And seeing that both I could travel

At the light I looked around

Nothing there could make me frown

But my plan would soon unravel

Mapquest said there would be a turn

Trusting still I ventured on

Many were lessons I had to learn

Though blessed by views of kudzu and fern

I felt my path was lost and gone

Backtracked that morning more than twice

Turned around on roads of clay

The air still crisp and oh so nice

With music as my only vice

I saw how way leads on to way

I am now telling with a sigh

At last I made my destination

O’er valleys low and hills so high

Beneath a cloudless southern sky

I found a bit of relaxation

 

Two months ago, as I explored a new trail at Red Mountain in Birmingham, I came upon an area covered in kudzu. This was my first real close up and I discovered the blooms that are lovely.

 

 

Right after this I realized that it was overtaking the fence that runs across the back of our yard. Sitting outside this week I kept smelling a wonderful scent. I went to investigate and it was the kudzu blooms. They have the most wonderful aroma – correctly described by others as smelling like grape soda.

 

I did a little research and found out that many parts of the plant are edible. The leaves can be eaten like spinach and the blooms are used for jams. Bees frequent the blooms more during a drought and it is believed they are the reason for a rare purple honey. I may try a recipe one day; a few years ago after reading about dandelions I did eat them. Once.

Known as “the vine that ate the south”, kudzu can grow up to a foot a day. Originally meant to feed livestock and fight soil erosion, it has outgrown its initial usefulness. I’m sure there are many metaphors that can be made of kudzu. Here’s one: facebook is kind of like kudzu – it looks good and smells good, but it can choke out the the things it wraps it tendrils around. So take care – whack away at it when you have to!

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