Bush Honeysuckles

Bush Honeysuckle

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Lonicera maackii (Amur) and Lonicera x bella (Bella)
Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckles)

Large, upright, spreading shrubs reaching up to 15 or 20 feet in height, with flowers that change from white to yellow, juicy red berries, and opposite, simple leaves that green up much earlier than surrounding native vegetation.

Leaves are deciduous, opposite, simple, 1 to 2 1/2 inches long, narrowly oval with the tip abruptly pointed, the margin entire (not toothed or lobed); upper surface green, lower surface pale green and fuzzy.

Bark grayish brown, tight, with broad ridges and grooves.

Twigs are grayish-brown, thornless; often the older branches are hollow.

Flowers May–June, fragrant, in clusters from the leaf axils, tubular, 1-inch long, slender, distinctly two-lipped, with upper lip having 4 lobes, lower lip with 1 lobe. Petals change from white or pink to yellowish as they age.

Fruits mature in September to October; typically red berries about 1/4 inch across, 2-6 seeded, in pairs in the axils of the leaves.

Height: to 20 feet (Amur honeysuckle); 6-15 feet (Bella honeysuckle).
Habitat and conservation: 
An understory shrub in woodlands. Asian bush honeysuckles invade quickly and outcompete native plants. Because they leaf out so early, they steal light from native plants that need a sunny forest floor in spring in order to flower, fruit and gather energy for the next year. Birds and small animals eat the berries and deposit the seeds elsewhere, spreading this noxious weed. Learn to identify this aggressive invader, and then kill it before it spreads more seeds elsewhere.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide. Primarily near urban areas, where it has escaped from cultivation, but it quickly spreads to natural habitats.
Invasive. Originally from Asia; introduced for landscaping, wildlife cover and erosion control. Probably the most aggressive exotic plant that has escaped and naturalized in urban areas, where the woodland understory is often a solid layer of green from this shrub. It tolerates many habitats and can become established nearly anywhere that birds can go. Prescribed burning, hand pulling of seedlings, cutting and herbicide treatments are all employed to try to control this tough, weedy plant.
Human connections: 
Don’t think of planting this species in your yard—instead, use a native alternative such as American beautyberry, American hazelnut, buttonbush, Carolina buckthorn, elderberry or deciduous holly. Also, learn to identify bush honeysuckles and help in the fight to control their expanding numbers.
Ecosystem connections: 
Bush honeysuckles shade out native wildflowers and young native trees on the forest floor. They may also secrete a chemical into the soil that hinders native trees. Birds tempted to nest in the sturdy lower branches of bush honeysuckles suffer higher nest predation, being closer to the ground.
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