Kudzu (Pueraria lobata; formerly jR thunbergiana) , which had been cultivated in Japan for centuries, made its appearance in the United States in 1876 at the Japanese pavilion at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and was introduced to southerners at the Japanese pavilion at the New Orleans Exposition of 1884-1886. Because of its luxuriant, rapid growth, broad and layered leaves, and lovely purple or magenta wisteria-like flowers, it soon gained popularity as a shade plant and became known as the "porch vine." By early in this century, some farmers were growing kudzu as a forage crop, mainly because of the indefatigable efforts of C. E. Pleas, a farmer of Chipley, Florida. Pleas noticed that the kudzu that escaped from his shade planting was being eaten with relish by his goats, pigs, cows, and even his large free-ranging flock of chickens. After successful experiments with the kudzu as a forage crop, Pleas began pitching its virtues and selling rootstock through the mails, and in 1925 he praised the plant with a pamphlet, "Kudzu - Coming Forage of the South." Unfortunately, the virtue that the vine's promoters praised most highly, its vigor and rapid rate of growth, soon revealed itself a virtue in excess. By the 1950s, foresters and highway engineers were complaining that wherever it was planted, the vine grew upward or outward at the rate of sixty to a hundred feet a season. The new king of the South, as it turned out, had faint restraint, and the ground cover that the Soil Conservation Service only a few years before had celebrated as a solution to erosion - and social and economic - problems had become a pest. The U.S. Department of Agriculture removed kudzu from its list of acceptable cover crops for its Agricultural Conservation Program in the 1950s.
The Georgia Historical Quarterly
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Published by: Georgia Historical Society
JSTOR Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40583548 .
Stewart, Mart A., "Cultivating Kudzu: The Soil Conservation Service and the Kudzu Distribution Program" (1997). History Faculty and Staff Publications. 48.
Subjects - Topical (LCSH)
Kudzu--Southern States; Land use--Southern States; Soil conservation--Southern States