'The vine that ate the South':
Kudzu (Pueraria montana) is a twining, trailing, ropelike vine up to 100 feet long with 3-7 inch 3 leaflet leaves on 6-12 inch leafstalks. The woody vines can be up to 10 inches in diameter, and kudzu roots can reach depths of 16 feet.
Kudzu covers about 7 million acres in the Southeastern United States, and Where kudzu takes hold, it eventually eliminates all other vegetation, including trees, as it climbs and competes for light. Power companies spend millions fighting kudzu each year. Fields, farm buildings and homes are overwhelmed and destroyed. It resists herbicides, and old kudzu plants can have a root weighing over 100 pounds, making it difficult to kill by digging up its roots.
Kudzu was introduced to the U.S. in 1876, to control soil erosion in the South. Native to China and Japan, it can grow up to 1 foot per day, and virtually takes over telephone poles, trees, buildings, and anything else in it's way. We know it primarily as an uncontrollable weed, and sometimes as cattle forage.
In Japan and China, it is also grown for its edible roots, which can reach 7 feet long and weigh 450 pounds. The roots are dried and pulverized into kudzu powder. This kudzu powder is used in cooking to thicken soups and sauces, dredge foods for deep frying, etc. The leaves and stems can be used as in salads.
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