NORTH ALABAMA (WHNT) — To most Alabamians, it’s known only as an inconvenience. For others, kudzu has been unconvincingly called “the vine that ate the South.”

Kudzu, although native to China, has slowly made its way across the Alabama landscape over the past century. But what is it and how did it get here?

According to the Alabama Forestry Commission, kudzu is a “wrapping, trailing, mat-forming woody vine.” Its stems grow up to 10 inches in diameter, but the vines themselves can grow up to 100 feet long, covering every inch of a tree, stump, and even that old, rustic truck in the backyard.

In the spring, kudzu vines can grow up to a foot a day, according to

The Encyclopedia of Alabama states that vines began to take over the American Southeast in the 1930s — with a little help from the federal government.

In 1933, Congress created the Soil Erosion Service (SES), now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service, to combat topsoil erosion during the Dust Bowl. Over two decades, the organization distributed 85 million kudzu seedlings to southern landowners along with a check for anyone who planted them.

By 1946, three million acres of farmland in the South were covered with seed.

Since then, kudzu has undergone numerous classifications. In the 1950s, it was removed from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) list of eligible cover crops. Just two decades later, it was downgraded to “common weed” status, and in 1997, Congress voted to recognize it as a “federal noxious weed.”

What began as an effort to plant as much kudzu as possible now exists as an effort to destroy it—or at least live with it.

As annoying as kudzu is to some people, it has become a normal part of life in Alabama.

The weed has inspired numerous websites, jellies, soaps, baskets and handmade goods, candles, and even The Kudzu Café, a restaurant that opened in downtown Scottsboro.

While kudzu may be annoying, it looks like it’s here to stay.

To learn more about kudzu, its impact on Alabama, and effective ways to eliminate it, visit Encyclopedia of Alabama or the US Forest Service here.

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