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Hort in the Home Landscape

A blog devoted to sharing timely horticulture topics and answering the questions of gardeners and homeowners.
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Exotic Bush Honeysuckle

Plant of the Week!

This week's plant continues last week's trend of plants that may have some nice ornamental features but are actually very invasive in Illinois. Native to Eurasia, bush honeysuckles were introduced to the US for use as ornamentals, for wildlife cover and for soil erosion control.

These exotic bush honeysuckles (Lonicera maackii (Amur honeysuckle), Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle), and Lonicera tatarica (Tartarian honeysuckle))are currently finishing flowering here in Northern Illinois and you'll notice the pairs of fragrant, white or pink tubular flowers in many wooded areas as you drive along the highway. In a couple of weeks you'll notice the bright red berries that follow soon after. Birds love these fruits and will widely disseminate seeds across the landscape.

Bush honeysuckles are upright, generally deciduous shrubs that range from 6 to 15 feet in height. According to the US Forest Service, exotic bush honeysuckles are relatively shade-intolerant and most often occur in forest edge, abandoned field, pasture, roadsides and other open, upland habitats. Woodlands, especially those that have been grazed or otherwise disturbed may also be invaded by exotic bush honeysuckles.

The many problems with exotic bush honeysuckles are the following (US Forest Service fact sheet):

  • Exotic bush honeysuckles can rapidly invade and overtake a site, forming a dense shrub layer that crowds and shades out native plant species.
  • They alter habitats by decreasing light availability, by depleting soil moisture and nutrients, and possibly by releasing toxic chemicals that prevent other plant species from growing in the vicinity.
  • Exotic bush honeysuckles may compete with native bush honeysuckles for pollinators, resulting in reduced seed set for native species.
  • In addition, the fruits of exotic bush honeysuckles, while abundant and rich in carbohydrates, do not offer migrating birds the high-fat, nutrient-rich food sources needed for long flights, that are supplied by native plant species.

Native bush honeysuckles may be confused with these exotic species and cultivars, so proper identification is necessary. Unlike the exotics, most of our native bush honeysuckles have solid stems, while upon cutting open an exotic stem it will often be hollow.

Have some of these invasive shrubs on your property? Removing these shrubs is very important to restoring our native habitats. Removal can be done by a variety of mechanical and chemical methods. See this fact sheet for a list of management options:

More information can be found here:

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