back in the day, somebody took a little vacation to japan and brought home a souvenir: a cutting from a vine they thought would take root at home here in the south. they were right: the vine is quite comfortable here in the south, spreading out and making itself right at home. the japanese call it kuzu; we call it kudzu, and though i have no reputable sources to support it and wasn’t even born when kudzu first arrived on the scene (though there are days it sure feels like i was), i often speculate that we added the “d” for dinner . . . as in this is the D*@@&% plant that ate the south for dinner. either that or somebody just can’t spell worth a lick.
now while it’s true that this plant is invasive and aggressive, it also has some often overlooked good qualities. livestock and some people, for example, eat the non-woody parts of it. others make jelly from it, and it can be shaped into the most attractive baskets and wreaths, if you like that kind of thing. it even has some medicinal value, including (but not at all limited to) being a surefire remedy for hangovers and alcohol cravings. i hasten to add that i have no firsthand experience with that, but i don’t break a sweat to imagine that its aggressive, invasive nature has driven more than one person to drink. (another reason for the “d”.) kudzu is also good at stemming erosion, and in the fall, the colorful leaves wash the countryside in brilliant colors.
kudzu can slap overtake the landscape, cloaking trees and shrubs, rendering them almost unrecognizable, and i’m here to tell you that the women on my tree sometimes have a tendency to let others overrun them. but like so many of my ancestors who can’t even spell japan but spent a goodly part of their life dealing with kudzu, my female ancestors are quite adept at turning trespassers into treasures and in playing the hand they are dealt right on into the winner’s circle. it’s just the way we are.