HIGHLANDVILLE -- After a two-year battle, Gary Pfalzbot is creeping closer to solving the curse of kudzu.
Thanks to a vocal campaign his "15 minutes of fame," Pfalzbot calls it -- Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell signed into law Tuesday a bill naming kudzu, cut-leaved teasel and common teasel to be noxious weeds. The ruling means Christian County officials are now authorized to compel the owner of land adjoining Pfalzbot’s nine acres to control the kudzu that spreads onto Pfalzbot’s land. The landowner lives in California and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Two years ago, Pfalzbot and his wife, Pamela, began asking for help to control the dense growth that spreads, he said, "like a brush fire." Christian County Commissioner Roy Matthews told him there was nothing officials could do unless the plant was deemed noxious.
Gary Pfalzbot carries a baby goat near the boundary fence of his property as goats eat kudzu on his neighbors land.
The Asssociated Press
Gary Pfalzbot carries a baby goat near the boundary fence of his property as goats eat kudzu on his neighbor’s land. The Asssociated Press
"If we get laws, we will enforce them," Matthews said at the time. Matthews was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
The experience with kudzu has not been totally negative, says the 41-year-old musician who moved here from California six years ago. To fight the kudzu, he brought in goats that eat the vine before it can spread.
Not only does he now have 35 goats that he said he dearly loves, he’s also developed goatworld.com, a Web site that "breaks even" selling products including goats’ milk soap.
Another plus is that the experience has renewed Pfalzbot’s confidence in democracy, he said.
"This has pretty much restored my faith that the average guy out there -- as long as he speaks up and follows through -- can get something done," Pfalzbot said.
"You have to know how the system works and use it and be willing to go through a lot of red tape."
The new law, spearheaded by Reps. Estel Robirds, R-Theodosia, and Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, makes it the "duty" of all Missourians, governmental agencies and transportation companies to control the spread of kudzu and to eradicate the two teasels.
By "duty," the law means that you have to at least try to control or eradicate the weeds, said Joe Francka, director of the Department of Agriculture’s division of plant industries. Those who don’t try, Francka said, could face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.
Kudzu was brought to the United States from China in the 19th century.
The plant can grow as much as a foot a day and has blanketed much of the nation’s South with its dense foliage and sturdy, thick vines.
It is not widespread in Missouri, but patches have been found in 26 counties, Pfalzbot said.
Kreider said the law, which takes effect on Aug. 28, is one of the most important tourism bills passed in years.
"The reason people come to southwest Missouri and Branson are the trees and the mountains," he said.
"Kudzu will kill every tree on those hills. It is a much more serious problem than most people realize."
Kudzu can block sunlight from getting to trees and other plants. Its roots, which can reach almost 10 feet into the ground, can also rob other plants of water.
Common and cut-leaved teasel are members of the thistle family that also aggressively push out other plants.
Tall and prickly, the plants have purple or white flowers and are harmful to the state’s biodiversity, said Department of Conservation spokesman Jim Low.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.