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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Language of Landscape

Air Date: Week of


Living on Earth continues its series with readings from the book “Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape,” edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney. In this installment, poet Pattiann Rogers defines “kudzu.”


GELLERMAN: It's Living on Earth, I'm Bruce Gellerman.

[MUSIC: Daniel Lanois “O Marie” from Acadie (daniellanois.com 2005)]

Here in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting longer – a sure sign that winter’s losing its grip. And while the groundhog may yet be right, and the cold may linger, look closely and you’ll see the buds starting to swell, and the landscape - our home ground – coming back to life.

But sometimes there’s too much of a green thing growing. You’ll find a definition of one wild and wide spreading plant in the book, “Home Ground.” It’s a compilation of American landscape terms we’ve been featuring occasionally on Living on Earth.

Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney are the book’s editors. Today poet Pattiann Rogers reads her definition of Kudzu.


ROGERS: Kudzu. In large portions of the southeastern United States, the Kudzu vine, rapacious and fast-growing, has overtaken the countryside, covering Dixie like the dew. Growing sixty feet or more in a season, this woody, hairy vine, originally a native of Japan and China can completely engulf large trees, telephone poles, abandoned cars, small sheds, little-used country roads. Kudzu is believe to cover more than seven million acres of rural areas in the south, and has been found as far north as New York, as far west as Texas, and commonly in the mid West, including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas.

Luckily, winter frost kills the vine, although it’s roots survive.

People residing in Kudzu country have adopted the vine good naturedly as an emblem of their home place, and enjoy telling tall tails about it. For example, there’s the one about an escaped prisoner who fled into a Kudzu patch and is still unaccounted for.

The Kudzu Kings, a musical outfit, advertise themselves as the purveyors of southern-roots-rock-drunken-country-jungle-boogie-Americana from Oxford, Mississippi.

[MUSIC: Kudzu Kings: “Truly” from Kudzu Kings (CD Baby/Kudzu kings 1997)]

GELLERMAN: Poet Pattiann Rogers lives in Colorado. Her definition of Kudzu appears in the book: “Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape” edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney. Yeeha!



The Home Ground Project


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