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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Lamb

A Honeysuckle with Bitter Results

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera Japonica) was introduced to the US ecosystem as early as 1806. Much like other invasive species it was taken from its natural habitat for its ornamental qualities and with little concern for the consequences. Its beauty is merely a deception and its fragrant flowers are a siren song, the Japanese Honeysuckle is not a vine to be trifled with. In this article we are going to help you identify this species, guide you on processes to remove any infestations you may have, and suggest what you might consider planting in its place.

Found on the East Coast from Maine to Florida and as far west as Texas, the Japanese Honeysuckle overgrows and out competes other species in forest communities. It chokes out the competition by denying other species room to grow or access sunlight.

Japanese Honeysuckle (Used with CC licensing from Wikimedia)

Of course, once you have removed the infestation, if you want to maintain a similar aesthetic in a North American garden we would recommend the Trumpet Honeysuckle. Aside from having a greater variety of color the native species will certainly attract pollinators such as

Trumpet Honeysuckle (Used with CC licensing from Flikr)

Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. It tends to grow deep green, lobe shaped leaves and long woody vines that will spread to over 6m (20ft). smaller red berries as compared to the slightly larger, black berries the Japanese variety will grow. In addition Trumpet Honeysuckle will grow 2.5-5cm (1-2in), reddish-pink, tubular flowers that have yellow and orange hues on the inside. Comparatively the flowers of its invasive counterpart grow white and yellow flowers that split into two lips.

Removing Japanese Honeysuckle does not have to be a challenge, but does require commitment. Total removal is a multistep process that, when done right, can significantly reduce the invasive population and is achieved with two steps. The first step is to either burn or hand remove the foliage in the spring before they flower in late May to mid-July this prevents pollination as well as seed spread through animal droppings, especially birds who eat its berries. The second step comes in late autumn after the first killing frost. Once other species have gone dormant, the vines that the Japanese Honeysuckle will have grown over the summer will be vulnerable and still active. The application of herbicides should finish off the rest of the plant however most experts recommend careful monitoring even into the next summer. If the infestation persists or one desires a more aggressive approach one should dig out the root systems and burn the detritus for a more guaranteed result.

As our list of invasive species grows we will always encourage local gardeners to continue to educate themselves and others on the dangers of these unwelcome transplants. We must begin to heal the ecosystems we live in by removing the nonnatives and replacing them with positive species. If you identify a local infestation of Japanese Honeysuckle we support swift and decisive action.


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