This year's Kudzu Jesus is found in Kinston, NC. It is an image of Jesus on the cross. [I know that Jesus said he was "the vine" and we are the branches but I honestly don't think he meant kudzu. And to tell the truth I have seen better images of Jesus in kudzu.] Nonetheless, people are driving from miles away to view the Kudzu Jesus.
Photograph from the Asheville Citizen-Times
A landowner near Kinston was about to spray the vine with a herbicide when he noticed the resemblance. As he said, "You can't spray Jesus with Round-up."
The Japanese brought Kudzu (pueraria lobata) to the United States for the Centennial Exposition in 1876 to honor our Nation's 100th birthday. It seemed to be a perfect plant and the growing conditions in Southeastern United States were perfect. What could be better for soil erosion? And for animal feed?
The Civilian Conservation Corps workers planted thousands upon thousands of acres of kudzu along the roadsides. Kudzu plants were sold through the mail so farmers and others could plant their own. What a great vine! Well, there was one little problem...kudzu grows better than anyone dreamed. It can grow as much as a foot a day during the summer months. Spread by runners, the vine overtakes anything in its way. It also spreads by seeds which can lie dormant for years before they burst forth to take over the landscape.
Kudzu is so widespread that controlling it is almost impossible. Utility companies spend millions each year repairing damage done by kudzu. Goat farmers lease their goats to eat the kudzu in certain areas. Some enterprising folks make baskets and other artwork from kudzu. While there are some uses for kudzu, the supply will always exceed demand and the South will continue to struggle against the "vine that ate the South."