Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bush Honeysuckles


In our continuing battle with exotic invasive species, there are 3 honeysuckle shrubs that add to the problem. Once widely planted, their spread has proved difficult to control. Birds have discovered the fruit, and the seeds have been distributed into unwanted locations. All three look similar to the above pictures, but with close examination can be readily separated.

1a) Leaves broadly egg shaped ending in a long fine tip.... Amur Honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii (above)
1b) Leaves shorter, blunter, more oval, without a long tip...2 (below)


2a) New growth twigs tomentose, covered in hairs...Morrow's Honeysuckle, Lonicera morrowii
2b) New growth twigs glabrous, smooth and hairless...Tatarian Honeysuckle, Lonicera tataria

Amur
All these honeysuckles have opposite simple leaves with entire margins (no teeth). The flowers and fruit are arranged in pairs. Amur Honeysuckle flowers are white and yellow, similar to Japanese Honeysuckle.

Each of these honeysuckles produce red berries. There are very subtle differences in the stalks. Amur is said to have fruit stalks less than a quarter inch, while the others are a quarter inch or greater. I see no reason to try and measure such a difference when the leaves make identification of this species certain.

(from 2b)
Tatarian Honeysuckle, (often misspelled with an extra r as in Tartarian), is best identified by feeling the new growth twigs, they are hairless. Tatarian flowers range from white to pink.

The fruit of Morrow's Honeysuckle looks identical to Tatarian.

Morrow's and Tatarian can both have plants with either red or orange fruit.

When in doubt, examine the twigs. Morrow's will be hairy throughout the new growth and into the leaf petioles. (from 2a)

The flowers range from white to a creamy yellow.

Just when you feel you have these three down pat, along comes a hairy plant with pink flowers. I posted this back in the spring, and am still not sure what this is. Everything points to the Tatarian-Morrow hybrid, Bell's Honeysuckle, Lonicera x bella. So yes, they hybridize, great.

One other thing you should always check. Clip the branch in half and look inside. These exotics all have hollow centers (piths). Similar looking native shrubs are solid inside.

This summer I observed a Morrow's Honeysuckle with wrinkled deformed leaves, many of which were dead. Has a virus found its way to these plants? One could only hope. It looks similar to what I've seen attacking Multi-flora Rose lately. All natural resource agencies know these honeysuckle species are being discouraged, yet I still see many gardeners on line selling them. Guess it's all about the money.

15 comments:

  1. excellent post, dennis! a very valuable one as well for those who'd like to know more about these tenacious bastards. hailing from west-central Ohio I'm more than familiar with all three species, especially L. maackii. our family farm's old-growth woodlot is chocked full of this and I've spent the better part of 3 years slowly cleansing the lot.

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  2. I found this in bush in a corner in front of a snowball bush in the spring. Now it has grown to 5 feet and is covered with red berries. It is a volunteer. What can I expect of it by next year this time? If I don't remove it, will it choke out the other plants in this area? Can it be pruned and controlled? I did enjoy the tiny flowers and now the berries.

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    1. Honey suckle will eventually choke out plants both in the immediate area and any area that the berries/seeds are taken by birds. It cannot be controlled and has escaped control as far back as the early 1900's or before

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  3. Well, as they say in West Virginia...the only thing that grows under a honeysuckle bush is another honeysuckle bush.....

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  4. edible? not really. They are mildly toxic, which is not an oxymoron. They don't agree with our digestive system. They may make you sick or pass through you so quickly as to cause frequent sit down visits in the bathroom.

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    1. but they are soo yummy. tastes like sweet tomatoes.

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  5. So glad I found your blog and especially this post. I had no idea the bushes growing wild in our yard were honeysuckles! My plan was to cut them all down this fall and winter. Then I noticed the red berries! I feed the birds in the winter and participate in a Bird Count all winter. I'm debating whether I should cut them down or leave them for the birds...I'm leaning towards cutting them down.

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  6. There are plenty of other foods out there for the birds Ginger, so cut away. If you're not opposed to herbicide, spray the stumps as well.

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  7. Thank you so much for the guide! Very appreciated! Im a little confused by which pictures correlate to 1a and 1b, 2a and 2b. can you offer help?

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  8. thank you so much. I have been trying to identify a bush in my neighborhood- now I know it to be the amur honeysuckle

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  9. I just bought a piece of property and (I believe) the marrow honeysuckle is EVERY WHERE. I do mean everywhere. The berries are pretty and stuff, but my God there were hundreds of birds eating them and pooping all over the place. Is this plant invasive? Does it have any medicinal uses? My last question is do I get rid of them or just move them to line the property line or something. If I had to guess there's at least 50-100 of them win an area where there used to be a huge barn and two silos. As far as I know it seems contained in that disturbed area, but then again I can't get through the dense weeds and brush. Any helpful info for what I should do?

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  10. Yard was full of Amur, 7 years later and lots of work and they are gone. I find the deer will eat the regrowth when they are hungry. Did not use herbicide.

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  11. Thanks to all of the comments I have identified the Amur Honeysuckle throughout my 10 acres. My young 12 week old boxer puppy was loving them today before I new it. He did vomit but no other symptoms. I will train him not to eat them again, but it shouldn't be difficult as he will get sick of being sick. I will leave the bushes because they are beautiful and very fragrant in spring. Just don't eat them!

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