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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Language of Landscape

Air Date: Week of August 20, 2010

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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.”


YOUNG: Time now to dip into our collection of evocative terms about the land around us. They come from the book "Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape", compiled by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney. Today, poet Pattiann Rogers tells us about something rapidly changing the landscape of the south: here’s her description of the wild and spreading plant "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 believed 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.



The Home Ground Project


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