When Green Is No Good

Published on: Nov. 24, 2009

It was one of the warm, sunny weekends in November, and I was happily going from new bluebird box to bluebird box, brushing a coat of water sealant on the wooden top of each. My dogs followed along, waiting patiently between each spot. A red-tailed hawk screamed as it passed overhead. It was one of those days of blissful, relaxed time outside.

Curse of the Bush Honeysuckles!So I was poking along, just looking around when suddenly, I saw it. The evil green. The horribly invasive. The bush honeysuckle. Right there by a bluebird box at one of our most distant borders. Since the leaves of most trees and shrubs had fallen, the bright green leaves with red berries of the plant stood out.

And then as I headed to the next box, I saw a scattering of more of the young skinny-stemmed, green-cloaked invaders. They had just snuck in over the last growing season or two, camouflaged during the summer as they were lost in the surrounding mass of green. What a sickening sight!

You might think I’m exaggerating here, but staying ahead of these invasive plants—non-natives that can take over and push out the great mix of understory flowers and shrubs—is essential. Once it’s out of hand, the task of keeping them under control is daunting. So what to do?

Thankfully, you can rip them out of the ground when they’re young and the ground is moist. Or spray the leaves with Roundup (glyphosate) in summer into fall, or cut the stems and immediately put a 20-percent solution of Roundup on it in late summer, early fall or winter. We have a booklet that you can download on dealing with this nasty plant. If you don’t get a chance to check your area for them this winter, the bush honeysuckles stand out clearly in spring because they’re one of the first shrubs to green up.

It has since dawned on me that I’ll have to keep a special watch near the bluebird boxes. Since they feed on berries as well as insects, they’re likely to spread the bush honeysuckle all over the place. Looks like a never-ending battle ahead.

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