Kudzu really likes Quincy

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By Alice Du Pont

The summer heat combined with afternoon showers is good for growing but it has presented somewhat of a problem for the city of Quincy's public works department.

    "Kudzu is a problem. it seems to be growing faster this year and there's a lot more of it. At one time we mainly had it round out retention ponds, but now it seems to be everywhere. It's cause us to have to do a lot more work to keep it from taking over," said interim Public Works & Parks and Recreation Department director Gene Sutton.

    The plant, which can sometimes grow up to a foot per day, has added to the workload of employees. Sutton said the vine is claiming city rights of way and trees. All they can do is treat it and cut it because there seems to be no way to stop it. A drive along GF & A Drive between South Adams Street and U.S. Highway 90 is a prime example of how the problem has grown. In some spots, the kudzu had grown up to the curb. City crews cut it back several feet from the paved street but Sutton doesn't think it will be long before mowing crews are back out to the same location.

    "This is the worst I've every seem it. I don't know if its the heat or what but we continue to mow to keep it at bay," he said.

    The plant was brought to the United States for the World's Fair in 1876 by the Japanese as an entry. Closer to home, in the 1920s, Chipley nursery owners  Charles and Lillie Please began marketing it as food for animals which they sold throughout the Panhandle.

    There aren't any livestock that need to feed on the plants in the city and Sutton's headache with the plants is growing about as rapidly as the plants, that were officially declared a nuisance in the state in 1972.

    "It might have been a good idea that someone had in the past. it's like a monster that gets bigger everyday," he said.

    Across the street from Henry Palmer Jr.'s Shadow Street home kudzu is slowly creeping toward the utility wires. And political signs, in some areas, that were placed several weeks ago are now almost completely covered by kudzu.

    Sutton said he learned that kudzu may be an erosion retardant but has yet to confirm it. Kudzu can also kill trees because the vines can envelop and entire tree which prevents it from getting sunlight.

    But Quincy is not unique in the proliferation of kudzu. Over 7 million acres in the deep south are covered with the stuff.