Not many people smile when they hear the name of the Japanese vine that grows, well, like a weed.. except for local ecologist Jerry “Jerry” Watson. Jerry, or “Jerry” as his friends like to call him, has been a lifelong resident of Early and a horticulture specialist at Ranger Junior College for the past 8 years.
Why would a plant that can grow up to 60 feet per season make Watson smile? He explains.
“Well, Kudzu is a non-native invasive species, and unless quickly tackled, it can wreck an ecosystem. Native plants that sustain wildlife will be unable to grow, the vines will quickly overtake dead trees and create ‘fire ladders’ which spread fire faster, creating hazards for all citizens. However, due to the quick growth, up to a foot a day, Kudzu presents ample opportunity to force local officials to clean the town up. ”
Watson has already planted a few vines on Northline Drive, and the results are stunning, even to a man who spends most of his life around plants. “I thought that old trailer park needed to go, and petitions to the zoning commission were going nowhere, so I planted some Kudzu. Within weeks, the old tin singlewides were swallowed up by the Kudzu. It was even blooming, which made for a beautiful scene. We’ve had a damp spring, so some of these vines have been growing upwards of 7 feet a day!”
Unconventional, to say the least, Watson explains that the USDA makes funds available to eliminate Kudzu once it becomes a problem. “The way I see it, it’s a free facelift for derelict properties, and a little money in the pocket to boot!”
Not all Early residents are pleased, however. Leonard Garcia, an area landlord, explained that he’s had to quickly make improvements to his properties, fearing that he will be the next victim of Jerry “Jerry” Watson’s guerilla beautification tactics.
The City of Early is planning a large-scale community cleanup this weekend to ward off future Kudzu attacks. All residents are encouraged to “Make Early Beautiful”, and to call the Early Police Department if they see Jerry “Jerry” Watson riding his bicycle in the area.