MDC says autumn a good time to remove invasive bush honeysuckle

News from the region
Published Date
11/09/2021
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Kansas City, Mo. – Once autumn leaves have fallen, lingering green leaves on a shrub in your woods, yards, or fields may not be a good thing. Leaves on invasive bush honeysuckle tend to stay green long into late autumn. Non-native bush honeysuckle can be a thick growing nuisance. It can clog woodlands where people like to walk and fill up fence lines with vegetation of little use to pollinators and wildlife. But that lingering green foliage in late fall can also reveal to property owners where they can make inroads in limiting or eliminating it.

That late fall and early spring leaf growth is one way bush honeysuckle out competes native plants, shrubs, and trees. Also, the plant’s roots produce a chemical that inhibits the roots of other plants. Mature honeysuckle bushes may have bright red berries in autumn. Birds eat the berries and help spread the seeds. But the berries provide very little nutrition, and the foliage does not nurture insects such as larvae of butterflies and moths. The Kansas City area has many natural areas overrun with bush honeysuckle, growth that is suppressing natives.

Bush honeysuckle can be hard to stop once it gets established in an area. Homeowners and property managers can help by spotting the invader and removing it from their property.

In late November, the plant's active state makes it susceptible to treating its foliage with herbicides if it remains green in November. It’s a time when most native vegetation is dormant and won’t uptake the chemical, minimizing or avoiding any harm. Cutting honeysuckle and immediately spraying the stump with a 20 percent glyphosate solution can be effective. It’s crucial to treat the stump immediately after cutting so the chemical reaches the root system.

For homeowners who liked the greenery in the yard but want something more friendly to wildlife and their neighborhood, several native shrubs can accomplish the goal. Some examples are American beauty berry, fragrant sumac, vernal witch hazel, wild plum, and choke cherry. Some of those natives also have colorful fall foliage. A good source for natives to use in landscaping can be found at http://GrowNative.org.

For more information on bush honeysuckle, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZtY.