They creep up on us. Silently, insidiously sucking the nitrogen out of our air. Sound like a prelude to a Halloween horror tale? If only!
It’s actually what’s happening over much of the Earth right now, as global climate change enables vines to thrive like never before and smother native forests. The biggest culprit in the U.S. is moving ever northward, according to this Science Daily article in 2011. Asian kudzu was introduced here in the Southeast in 1930s to control soil erosion. But federal agricultural officials soon acknowledged what a disastrous “fix” it had been. With no insect or animal adversaries in America, kudzu eventually blanketed and smothered over 7 million acres of the southeastern U.S. What’s more, it isn’t just threatening our land and trees, it’s threatening people. It does this by pumping so much nitrogen out of the air and into the soil that ozone is spewed into the lower regions of our atmosphere, according to Columbia Magazine. This, in turn, leads to more smog and respiratory problems in humans!
While artificial vines are very on-trend in home décor right now, we cannot advocate the use of real vines, such as Oriental Bittersweet, in Holiday wreaths and flower arrangements. These vines disperse seeds that are still viable, even after prolonged periods indoors. So, if they’re not properly disposed of, more overwhelming invasions will occur, like the one reported by journalist Lauren DeWitt in Eastern Iowa’s Dubuque County in August 2013.
It takes legions of park employees and volunteers to rip out these vines, but only seconds for all of us to be aware of what we’re buying from florists and how we’re disposing of them when the Holidays have passed. Vines are beautiful, but they can also be fast-growing predators. So, as with so many things, beware! An ounce of prevention WILL be worth a pound of cure.