We went out for a drive this weekend and, along the stretch of State Highway 28 between Franklin and Bryson City in Western North Carolina, saw huge areas of forest being overrun by kudzu. We have travelled this road frequently and have noticed these vines, but now it’s far worse than in past years. The kudzu grows so thick that it kills everything it grows over by blocking sunlight.
These plants were intentionally introduced in the U.S. from Asia in 1876 to control erosion, but they grow so well in the Southeast that they are smothering everything else. Each year, about 120,000 additional acres are overrun by Kudzu vines.
Several areas are studying the use of goats and llamas in an attempt to control kudzu. Apparently, the leaves are excellent food for grazing animals. This is a useful plant. Its leaves and roots are edible, the fibers can be used in papermaking and weaving and its flexible vines can be used in basket-weaving.
In another 150 years, the economy of the American South may be heavily dependent upon its goat cheese, llama wool and artisanal basketry.