June is Invasive Species Awareness Month in Wisconsin, and I’m “celebrating” by presenting my series on the top invasive plants found in our area here in my daily blog. All month long, I will be providing stories, information, videos, photo galleries and more on the dangerous, invasive plants of our area.
Today’s target: Honeysuckle.
While most people are familiar with the invasive nature of buckthorn trees and shrubs, it often comes as a surprise to many to learn that one of our most beautiful landscape shrubs, bush honeysuckle, is just as dangerous to our native forest and forest edge habitats. Making matters worse, there are dozens of varieties of honeysuckles available to gardeners, in many growth forms, making it frustrating and confusing when attempting to sort them out. I’ll do my best to help you here.
With a wonderfully scented, beautiful and elegant flower display in early summer, bush honeysuckle has long been used as an ornamental shrub across the United States. Unfortunately, this is how many invasive species gain a foothold in our native landscapes.
It is important not to confuse invasive honeysuckle with other native honeysuckles found in our area. Additionally, as is with the case with many invasive plants, bush honeysuckle goes by many other common names. Unfortunately, some perfectly harmless plants also go by the name honeysuckle, making it even more confusing for shoppers and gardeners.
The native trumpet honeysuckle, which is actually a vine rather than a shrub, is a wonderful plant for wildlife. Native trumpet honeysuckle features larger flowers that are reddish-orange in color. It grows in vine form, with completely different, much larger leaves that the shrubby bush honeysuckle.
The exotic bush honeysuckles are were introduced into North America from their native Asia for ornamental gardening. While beautiful and attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies, there are plenty of native plant options to choose from instead, including the native trumpet honeysuckle mentioned above. Native trumpet honeysuckle is also NOT the same vine as the dreaded “trumpet vine.”
Bush honeysuckle forms a dense, impenetrable layer of growth in the understory or along the forest edge, forbidding any native plants from growing there. This causes long-term degradation of the forest and edge habitats where it grows, as well as reducing and eliminating native plants and wildflowers from the area.
Bush honeysuckle can bloom in either white, or pink, and often, both colors mix together to form dense thickets along the forest edge.
Growing in a variety of habitats, from sand to clay, and able to tolerate light conditions from full sun to full shade, bush honeysuckle is a particularly dangerous invasive shrub since it can grow just about anywhere.
Growing from 4 to 20 feet high and wide, and often forming large colonies, bush honeysuckle can quickly cover large areas of native habitat.
Worse yet, bush honeysuckle is often found mixed together with other invasive shrubs, such as Russian olive and buckthorn. These mixed stands of highly invasive woody shrubs make for tough work for those interested in eradicating them from the landscape.
In addition to the bush honeysuckles, there is the highly invasive Japanese honeysuckle, which grows in vine form. Not to be confused with native trumpet honeysuckle or other non-invasive vine growing honeysuckles, it is important to be able to identify and distinguish Japanese honeysuckle from the rest.
Japanese honeysuckle blooms in white, while native trumpet honeysuckle blooms in deep reddish-orange.
Some of the varieties to be on the watch for are Amur honeysuckle, Morrow’s honeysuckle, Bell’s honeysuckle, Tatarian honeysuckle, Honeyrose honeysuckle and others.
Probably 99 percent of the wild blooming honeysuckle shrubs you see in area parks, nature centers and woodland areas are invasive, exotic bush honeysuckle.
— Rob Zimmer: 920-419-3734, firstname.lastname@example.org