Saturday, September 21, 2013

Elephants In the Kudzu

Take a drive anywhere through the South in the summer and you'll become aware of mile after mile of a vine imported by the highway department in the early 1900's to control erosion of the roadways.  It's called kudzu and, like the water hyacinths in Louisiana, is a plant in need of controlling.  Besides being invasive, another unpleasant fact or two about it is that snakes absolutely love (if snakes could love anything {besides existing merely to keep my phobia of them intact}) hiding in its dense cover.  Cows enjoy munching on the new growth and while it's a great source of nutrition for them, it makes their milk bitter and unpalatable.

Years ago, seemingly in another lifetime, when The Happy Family lived in Oxford, Mississippi, a food article in the Oxford Eagle touted a jelly made from kudzu blossoms to be the most flavorful ever to be contrived in the South.  I'd have to put on hip waders and carry several firearms to harvest five gallons of blossoms for a single batch of jelly but that's neither here nor there.  The article held one key phrase  never forgotten: elephants in the kudzu.

It doesn't take much of a vivid imagination to notice them.  I've seen all manners of elephants ever since;  babies, juveniles, adults;  some with vine trunks raised to the tops of trees;  others walking single file, trunk to tail.

Mostly they're lumbering through the heat and humidity, as if trying to grow their way back home to Asia. Herds of them exist around every curve, up and down hills, hiding in ravines.  They trudge their way to the road, growing offspring along the way.

It is a deceptively slow march they make but if you're watching, progress can be seen on a weekly basis. Their strength is in numbers.  The South is inundated with forests of the verdant pachyderms.

Sometimes I even think I hear their trumpeting calls, communicating to the herd over the hill, "We're almost there!"  Bless their hearts.  I hope they take the snakes with them when they grow home...


  1. Buckthorn is the Midwestern invasive species equivalent to kudzu. I'm thinking of producing a (bad) Grade B horror film: Kudzu vs Buckthorn. Kudzu will win of course--it took over Signal Mtn, TN where I was raised but the buckthorn will put up a mighty fight. Great post, pachyderms and all. Love it.

  2. Didn't know that about making cow milk bitter. It is a wonderful fodder for goats and makes the milk richer, in our experience. I knew to look for snakes, now I'll watch for elephants, too!

    1. You could be feeding your goats elephants!

  3. Love it! I have often wondered what was hidden under those vines....

  4. Mary this is wonderful. I too am accustomed to kudzu along the highways and byways of the south, mainly in Georgia. I've seen road crews trying to clear it out of an area, (bossman sits on top of the van with the rifle).

  5. Snakes and elephants? Oh my!!!