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Encarta 97 Encyclopedia
Kudzu, common name of a vine native to China and Japan. The plant is a coarse-growing perennial with large trifoliate leaves having coarsely lobed leaflets. The flowers, borne on long racemes, are large and purple. The fruit is a flat, papery pod covered with a tawny down. Kudzu plants are grown from root cuttings. They produce long, lateral runners that generate roots at intervals.
Kudzu produces edible roots, and the stems yield a fiber called ko-hemp. Since the introduction of kudzu into the United States in 1876, it has become important as a source of hay and forage and for its use in controlling soil erosion. Kudzu is well adapted to the southern United States; in northern regions, other legumes, such as clover and alfalfa, grow more plentifully. As a hay plant, the viny nature of kudzu makes it difficult to harvest, but as pasturage, kudzu is valuable for its high protein and vitamin A and D content. Because of the binding capacity of its long runners, kudzu is valuable in reducing soil erosion. In some places, however, it has spread into forest borders, drainage ditches, and other places, and many farmers and foresters consider it a weed.
Scientific classification: Kudzu belongs to the subfamily Papilionoideae, family Leguminosae. It is classified as Pueraria lobata.
A hardy opportunist, kudzu grows in a variety of habitats and environmental conditions but does best on deep, well-drained, loamy soils. Almost any disturbed area is suitable habitat for this vine. Roadsides, old fields, vacant lots and abandoned yards are all prime spots for new kudzu growth.

There's a guy in Mississippi that takes the vines and makes baskets and other weavable items out on it.

Offered by Jon.

In Georgia, the legend says
That you must close your windows
At night to keep it out of the house.
The glass is tinged with green, even so...
From the poem, Kudzu, by James Dickey
There's so much of this fast-growing vine in the Southeastern US, you might think it was a native plant. Actually, it took a lot of hard work to help kudzu spread so widely. Now that it covers over seven million acres of the deep South, there are a lot of people working hard to get rid of it! But kudzu is used in ways which might surprise you.
Kudzu's History