Kudzu is an ivy-like plant, originating in Japan.
Seeds and seedlings were imported to the U.S. Atlantic coast in order to preserve the dunes and barrier islands on the Georgia and Carolina coasts.

Kudzu vines can grow up to a foot in a 24 hour period, given the proper conditions, and has been known to overgrow telephone poles, homes, vehicles, and other stationary objects.

In fact, it reminds me of Everything.slashdot.org


You can drive through parts of the South and see entire landscapes covered in this vine. The big mounds you see out there; what do you think they are? Well, they used to be trees. Nice, big, healthy trees.

As Option8 has indicated, kudzu (Latin name Pueraria lobata) was imported to the US willingly. The Japanese delegates to the US displayed the vine in 1876 as "kuzu." In 1884, it had become known as kudzu and was shown at the New Orleans Exposition. Soon thereafter, it was widely planted in the South as a cheap source of food for grazing livestock as well as an erosion-control agent.

The real problem began in the 1940's when the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps run by the Federal Government ("We're only here to help you.")) began planting it in ditches along highways.

The vines can grow 12 to 18 inches a day. Unlike most plants, they grow at night by storing energy during the day and using it when it's dark. Roots can grow 20 feet down. Some plants have been known to grow a total of 100 feet a year. It can grow almost anywhere, even across areas where hardly any other plant could survive. Anything not watched carefully can be covered in kudzu within days. Not only trees, but barns, houses, swimming pools, etc. Police often discover bodies underneath the kudzu in the winter when the foliage falls off the vines. It has saved some lives by cushioning the crash of cars which run off the road.

It was 1972 before the USDA declared it a noxious weed and plans were made to stop its spread. Unfortunately, nothing can kill it. You can burn it, pour herbicides on it, even spray it with Agent Orange. It all seems to just make it grow back stronger. Kudzu now covers 7 million acres from Florida to New York and Texas. Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi have the heaviest infestation. (Thanks a lot, FDR!)

A new fungus has been developed (Myrothecium verrucaria) and this may just work to eradicate the devil weed. Let's see what the tree-huggers have to say about this, eh? Which is more valuable, a weed or a tree? Who draws this ecological line in the sand?

Also the name of a comic strip by North Carolina man Doug Marlette -- it appears in more than 300 newspapers (probably mostly in the South), has won a Pulitzer Prize, and has been made into a musical. Some of the major characters are a boy named Kudzu, Reverend Will B. Dunn, and mechanic Uncle Dub, all in the Southern town of Bypass. It can be viewed at www.ctoons.com/static/kudzu/

In the South, people have made some creative attempts to deal with kudzu. A forestry service person told me that they burn some infested forest plots to keep it under control. My favorite attempt at kudzu control is Tallahassee, Florida. They have rented a herd of sheep. They put the sheep out where the kudzu is, and the sheep eat it! Then they move the sheep to another area that needs to be de-kudzu'd. I have not heard how successful this is yet, but it's pretty fun to drive around the city and spot the sheep. While the sheep do leave some waste, Tallahassee is the capital of Florida, so people are used to wading in it.
kudzu is also the hardware configuration tool for Red Hat Linux. Introduced in version 6.1, it has made changing hardware on a Red Hat system _virtually_ trivial. This of course excludes video cards given that XFree86 controls that realm of things (sigh). kudzu mostly just detects hardware and keeps a database, sending you off to other config tools for the actual configuration, if neccesary. Sound cards bring up sndconfig, video cards: Xconfigurator, mice: mouseconfig, etc.

Seeing as how kudzu (in the other definitions of it) appears to be a southern thang, and Red Hat is based in RTP, I wonder if this played a role when the Red Hat folk were trying to come up with a name.

None of the writeups above have mentioned the main reason kudzu is so deadly to other plants. The leaves that grow on the kudzu vine are thick and can grow as large as 8 inches across (and they're kind of fuzzy, too, like a peach skin). These leaves grow in a very dense arrangement, with nearly no gap between them. When you couple this very large leaf size with kudzu's ability to grow extremely fast and cover virtually anything in its path, sunlight no longer reaches any part of the ground or any plants underneath it. This kills off everything else, leaving the kudzu free to take all the water and nutrients from the soil for itself. Kudzu can even kill large trees because of its ability to climb and cover the entire surface area of the tree. not good

Kudzu is also Red Hat Linux's hardware detection tool, which launches at boot. If it detects new hardware, an ncurses interface is started and you are asked if you want to install or ignore your new kit.

If you ignore, AFAIK you are screwed as you cannot reverse the decision or install it later. Red Hat have fuX0red j00 and you must reinstall.

If you leave the pooter unattended and you fail to tell kudzu to install the hardware, Red Hat have fuX0red j00 and you must reinstall.

If you recompile a kernel wrong, and kudzu thinks some hardware has crapped out on you, and you hit the wrong key, Red Hat have fuX0red j00 and you must reinstall.

However, if by some act of God, you are at your computer pretty much constantly, are remarkably precise with your fingers and have great hand eye coordination, Red Hat have not fuX0red j00 and you can bask in the wonderfulness of a fully installed and working Red Hat system.

Kudzu really is one of the clumsiest, worst thought out pieces of software I have ever seen. Couldn't it just configure the goddamn hardware anyway, without user input? I remember one time, I was installing RH8.0 for the family, and I went off to have a cup of the quintessential geek drink while the PC rebooted. Big mistake, as I had a Deskjet 710C, which kudzu detected, but failed to install because I wasn't around to confirm that yes, I would like my printer to work and no, I would not like you to count to 20 before ignoring it entirely for the duration of that install. Stupid Red Hat. I'm still using it now, but only after removing their crappy KDE RPMS.

Kudzu is almost always referred to as a noxious, invasive weed. However, as has been pointed out, kudzu was originally brought to America as a crop. While it may grow a little too fast for comfort, it still does have significant uses:

  • Food. The Japanese have consumed kudzu as food for thousands of years. It's not always tasty, but it has saved many from famine. Every part of the kudzu plant is useful for food. Powdered kudzu root is a starchy flour much like corn starch and can be used to make soups and puddings. Kudzu leaf is a leafy green like spinach or kale, and is sturdy enough to use like grape leaves. Kudzu blossoms can be used to make a deep maroon tea, though many find it bitter. In Japan, a kudzu-flavored tofu is a delicacy. Kudzu recipes are readily found online.
  • Livestock feed. Livestock that are allowed to graze (free-range) will consume the kudzu leaf, and pigs will eat the starchy root. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the kudzu plant is slightly more nutritious than alfafa, making it a fairly cheap, quickly-replenishing source of food for cattle and other livestock.
  • Alternative Fuel. Using a yeast that can ferment both xylose and glucose (by way of enzymatic conversion of starches), kudzu could be a very rapid source of ethanol.
  • Medicine. Kudzu may be a powerful remedy for alcoholism, according to traditional Chinese medicine and backed up by a Harvard medical study by Dr. Bert L. Vallee and Dr. Wing-Ming Keung in 1993. The study involved hamsters that preferred alcohol to water, who were then injected them with an isoflavonoid compound derived from kudzu root extract. Most of the hamsters cut their alcohol intake in half or better, a superior result compared to many other pharmaceutical treatments for the disease. The study also noted that the kudzu root extract also resulted in reduced effects of hangovers, as well as improving the motor skills of the drunk hamsters.

Source: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/90/21/10008.pdf for the information about the alcoholism study.

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