My knees trembled. My heart pounded wildly. I was drenched in sweat.

My knees trembled. My heart pounded wildly. I was drenched in sweat.

Kudzu! Yes, that plant feared as much or more than Japanese honeysuckle was surely going to cover the entire tunnel house. My dreams were filled with the dreaded thought of fending off the invasive monster about to cover all of Newton County because I couldn’t control it inside the single tunnel house sitting on Nature’s Harvest Home!

This horrifying incident started when my daughter and I were identifying plants in the tunnel house. She’s taken Plant Taxonomy and has become one of my go-to persons when finding something ‘I almost recognize”.

We both knew the small plant was a legume, but it wasn’t something I had planted. That was on July 28th. It was a small plant with maybe six leaves. By August 8th, it covered a 12 x 8-foot trellis. It was the speed of coverage that caused me to recognize the plant.

Drenched in sweat, I pulled with all I had to remove the plant. Heart pounded wildly, I enlisted the help of Mr. Muscles to pull it. Half an hour later, we managed to put it into a plastic lawn bag. Mr. Muscles grinned and asked what was so bad about this ‘particular monster’ plant. After all, “it’s a legume. Right?”

“Well, it covers some nine million acres in the south. Isn’t that enough to be scared?”

He quipped,’ I’ve never saw it growing rampant in Virginia.”

We rarely notice anything if it doesn’t affect us personally and a vine growing on the trees isn’t important to a young boy in Virginia. On the other hand, his question did strike a chord in me. We’ve already had dodder growing in the tunnel house and quickly dispense of it.

Is kudzu really covering nine million acres? A little bit of research was far scarier than the kudzu.

Kudzu (Pueraria montana) was purposely introduced in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in a garden of native plants from Japan. The flower fragrance, reminiscent of grape cool-aid, and the velvety leaves enchanted the American flower gardeners. By 1883, kudzu was used to shade porches in southern homes.

The next seventy years, kudzu was considered one of America’s most beautiful vining ornamentals. Other uses were found for this wonder plant. Our government praised it for the high protein content for cattle forage and as a miracle groundcover to control soil erosion. To encourage the planting of kudzu seedlings along roadways and erosion prone area, the government paid planters $8.10 per acre. Ten years later, USDA no longer recommended it as a groundcover.

It was 1970 when USDA declare kudzu a weed and 1997, it was put on the noxious weed list. Corrected kudzu coverage in 2016 is only about 227,000 acres. The corrected yearly spread has gone from 150,000 acres to 2,500.

That should stop some of my knee trembling.

Then, the Asian Kudzu bug (Megacopta cribrari) showed up in 2009 in Georgia. A stink bug that loves kudzu is surely our salvation for the monster plant.

Or is it?

Kudzu is a legume as is soya, lima, kidney, and the ever-popular common green bean. Reports of this bug has been confirmed in South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee where any legume is tasty to their palates.

Linda Simmons writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.