Friday, July 9, 2010

The Vine That Ate The South

On one of our walks this spring in Cary, North Carolina we noticed a vine coming out of the woods, and snaking across the greenway. Later, when we were in the mountains near Asheville, we found the same vine completely covering hillsides, and enveloping trees. We identified it as Kudzu. or due to its out of control growth by one of its many nicknames, like "mile a minute vine," or " a foot a night vine."
So, what is with this Kudzu anyway? Kudzu was introduced from Japan into the United States in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where it was promoted as a forage crop and an ornamental plant. From 1935 to the early 1950s, the Soil Conservation Service encouraged farmers in the southeastern United States to plant kudzu to reduce soil erosion as explained above. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted it widely for many years.

It was subsequently discovered that the southeastern US has near-perfect conditions for kudzu to grow out of control — hot, humid summers, frequent rainfall, temperate winters with few hard freezes (kudzu cannot tolerate low freezing temperatures that bring the frost line down through its entire root system, a rare occurrence in this region), and no natural predators.It has been found in Michigan, in the South Haven area, but the cold winter temperatures keep it from being the problem that it is in the South. According to ScienceDaily, kudzu has been spreading in the southern U.S. at the rate of 150,000 acres annually with devastating environmental consequences.

Take a look at this really well done video by the National Invasive Species Information Center:

Here is a picture of Kudzu in Beal Gardens on the MSU campus.
Notice the vines stretching out ready to grab anything nearby.

For some really amazing pictures here is a great website:

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Monday, July 5, 2010

The Sycamores of Michigan State

It was the first tree I got to know on the Michigan State campus. It was June, 1966, the summer before my senior year of high school. Even then, this sycamore tree stood in all its majestic glory on what is today called Adams Marching Field across from Landon Hall. I was on campus for a radio and communications workshop, leading to my initial major one year later.

Today, we visit the tree on many campus walks, and especially when it is in the middle of the festive Marching Band pregame shows, before the Spartan football games.

The Sycamore, as it is known in North America, has always been a special species of tree to us. It's distinctive bark, large leaves, and bristle covered seed balls all combine to make it unique. It is of the genus platanus, and is known as the Plane tree in Scotland, and most of Europe.

There are many distinctive sycamore trees around campus.
Here are a few of them: (again, a reminder that you can click on the pictures to make them bigger)

This triple trunk beauty is between Beal Garden and the Circle IM. The sign identifies it as a "Plane Tree."

This one stands guard over the McLane Baseball Stadium.
They are easy to find in the Kellogg Center area.Another favorite near the Union by the Human Ecology building.This row we found in Spartan Village, where we used to live in married housing. The trees are a lot bigger now, and our apartment has been torn down.

And finally, this one with Ag. Hall in the background.

Special thanks to Leslie for the pictures, and Janice Brooks for being a part of the tree walks.

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