The Feared Invader

Tom Poland

Posted August 30, 2022

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer

Let’s talk invasive species. One will bite you. You can bite the other. You can eat it, but given time it will entomb all you possess. Fire ants or kudzu? Which do people fear most?

I believe kudzu tops fire ants as being more feared. Kudzu fascinates people in a morbid way. It stirs folks up with such ease, you’d think Hollywood would have cranked out a kudzu horror film by now. Like a Midwestern dust storm, kudzu covers all in its path.

For now, an imperiled lane runs through a sea of kudzu.

Fire ants with mounds missing center holes? Dust them with Spectracide or AMDRO and go on about your business. Want to get rid of kudzu? Round up some friends, and apply Kudzu Root Powder or Brush Killer. (See what I did here?) Or you can mow the vine for ten years or more and kill it. Some claim baking soda will do the job as will vinegar.

I’ve never seen fire ant mounds and kudzu together … hmm, but I saw a field studded with fire ant mounds eighteen inches high. It evoked a scene from a Western where teepees populated a plain as far as the eye could see. Bring in kudzu, and you’ll see nothing but a green rolling sea.

Even as kudzu chokes the life out of pines, dogwoods, and other plants, it fashions a landscape of beauty. Its green is vibrant. Its soft curves and mounds evoke snowfall, green snow. Its sheer dominance invokes awe. We see no other plant take over the land as kudzu does. We know where abandoned homes, stores, and barns have surrendered to the green menace, the conquistador, though busho (bu-shō) Japanese warlord would be more apropos for this invader from Japan and Southeast Asia.

Kudzu blooms’ fragrance brings to mind grape juice. Vanquished fire ant mounds leave mud in their wake. When winter sets in, kudzu looks like soggy brown crepe paper, the aftermath of some celebration turned funereal. Come winter, fire ants burrow deeper into the soil to avoid the cold. Come spring, fire ants and kudzu experience a resurgence.

I’ve seen many a person kick a fire ant mound just to annoy the pests. I asked people a simple question. Would you crawl under a mound of kudzu to see what it’s like? To wit, some entertaining responses came in. Exclamation points weren’t spared—Pull a vine in Blairsville and a vine in Tybee Island moves too! Noooo thanks! I’m sure kudzu hides many snakes! There is a large red hill near me covered in kudzu with paths and tunnels. One path had a cultivated area with tall plants growing in it! I don’t think it was okra. I won’t be walking thru thick kudzu as I don’t care for unseen snakes, chiggers, ticks, holes, boulders, tree branches etc. Undoubtedly the Lizard man was made of such.

One response made me curious to take the green plunge—“It’s an incredible world underneath! A large path of forest was covered near the house I grew up in. There were deer trails that led into the green-cast world. Crawling on hands and knees in sections and walking along others, it was like a green cave being held up by all the dead shrubs and small trees. I’m willing to take up the challenge again with my GoPro!”

Kudzu is here to stay and it has become part of the Southland’s lore. Like some underworld, this green overworld hides secrets. Why somewhere unseen may be a village forgotten by time, engulfed in green as it is.

Kudzu. Is it coming soon to some unsuspecting acreage near you? Time will tell.

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