Invasion of the Vine that Ate the South

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No really, that’s its nickname, “the vine that ate the South“; Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida most notably swallowed by the invader so far.

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Kudzu is known as the most serious and aggressive invasive plant in the United States, spreading in the southern states at a rate of 150,000 acres a year, thirty centimeters a day, swallowing everything in its path, destroying power lines, buildings, and killing native vegetation in the process.

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Swedish photographer Helene Schmitz has captured the beautiful but dangerous phenomenon. She calls it the Kudzu Project.

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The powerful plant species originates from China, but in 1876 the Japanese offered it as a gift to the United States at their pavilion for the Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia. It was promoted as a super plant that could grow rapidly to prevent soil erosion, and provide high-protein cattle fodder.

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In Japanese cuisine, it’s considered the “world’s greatest cooking starch”. When kudzu was introduced to the Southeast at the New Orleans Exposition in 1883, the species was marketed as the perfect ornamental vine to shade your porch and planted in thousands of gardens of the deep South, along sun-drenched roads and even beside railway tracks to prevent erosion. By 1946, it was estimated that 3 million acres of kudzu had been planted.

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h/t: messynessychic

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