In large portions of the southeastern United States the kudzu vine, rapacious and fast growing, has overtaken the countryside, “covering Dixie like the dew.” Growing sixty feet or more in a season, this woody, hairy vine, originally a native of Japan and China, can completely engulf large trees, telephone poles, abandoned cars, small sheds, little-used country roads. Kudzu is believed to cover more than seven million acres of rural areas in the South, and has been found as far north as New York, as far west as Texas, and commonly in the Midwest, including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas. Luckily, winter frost kills the vine, although its roots survive. People residing in kudzu country have adopted the vine good-naturedly as an emblem of their homeplace and enjoy telling tall tales about it. For example, there’s the one about an escaped prisoner who fled into a kudzu patch and is still unaccounted for. The Kudzu Kings, a musical outfit, advertise themselves as the “purveyors of Southern roots rock drunken country jungle boogie Americana from Oxford, Mississippi.”

Pattiann Rogers