the Vine That Never Truly Ate the South
In news media and scientific accounts and on some government websites, kudzu is typically said to cover seven million to nine million acres across the United States. But scientists reassessing kudzu’s spread have found that it’s nothing like that. In the latest careful sampling, the U.S. Forest Service reports that kudzu occupies, to some degree, about 227,000 acres of forestland, an area about the size of a small county and about one-sixth the size of Atlanta. That’s about one-tenth of 1 percent of the South’s 200 million acres of forest. By way of comparison, the same report estimates that Asian privet had invaded some 3.2 million acres—14 times kudzu’s territory. Invasive roses had covered more than three times as much forestland as kudzu.
And though many sources continue to repeat the unsupported claim that kudzu is spreading at the rate of 150,000 acres a year—an area larger than most major American cities—the Forest Service expects an increase of no more than 2,500 acres a year.
Even existing stands of kudzu now exude the odor of their own demise, an acrid sweetness reminiscent of grape bubble gum and stink bug. The Japanese kudzu bug, first found in a garden near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport six years ago, apparently hitched a plane ride and is now infesting vines throughout the South, sucking the plants’ vital juices. In places where it was once relatively easy to get a photograph of kudzu, the bug-infested vines are so crippled they can’t keep up with the other roadside weeds. A study of one site showed a one-third reduction in kudzu biomass in less than two years.
So it's not really the problem it's been made out to be? Like most environmental horrors it's been over sold. The local Kudzu at the beach is still going strong, although I think I've seen a Kudzu bug here and there. It's blooming now, and the grape bubble gum smell is strong.
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