Honeysuckle: Not as Sweet as it Sounds (or Smells)!

Nothing makes us as MAD as invasive species, and one of the most prolific species that we try to control is Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii).  This large deciduous shrub, also known as bush honeysuckle, was originally brought to the United States from Asia for use as an ornamental because of its fragrant white flowers and vibrant red fruit.  The bush quickly escaped cultivation due to high seed production and the fact the fruit is readily eaten and then dispersed by birds.  This method of seed dispersal makes it difficult to eradicate the bush, as birds are prone to “replant” the area.  Regular inspections and the removal or treatment of any new growth go a long way toward keeping a site free of invasive species.

The most common place to find honeysuckle is in the understory of woodlands, but honeysuckle is adaptable to a wide range of habitats and can be found just about anywhere.  Its numerous branches and plentiful leaves are able to shade out native bushes and wildflowers.  Amur honeysuckle is particularly efficient at out-competing native vegetation because it “greens up” earlier in the spring than most native plants and loses its leaves late in the fall.  This provides honeysuckle a significant advantage for obtaining sunlight, to the detriment of our native plant communities.

[Weed Wrench]

Weed Wrench

We regularly remove Amur honeysuckle as part of wetland restoration and habitat enhancement projects.  The best way to control this invasive species is by pulling the plant and removing the root system.  If a cut stump remains in the ground untreated, it will resprout and expand if allowed to mature.  The most useful tool we have in our arsenal for bush honeysuckle removal is the Weed Wrench.  This tool clamps to the base of the bush (or any woody plant you want to remove) and the long handle provides leverage to remove the entire plant from the ground.  If the bush is too large for the Weed Wrench, the other option for removal is to cut the bush at the base of the trunk and apply a systemic herbicide to the stump to prevent re-growth.  Amur honeysuckle is a hardy and adaptive plant, but with regular maintenance, it is possible to reduce its coverage and restore native habitat.  Once removed, native woody shrubs should be planted to replace the honeysuckle and restore the understory community.  Suggested replacement shrubs include: dogwoods (Cornus spp.), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum), blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium), and service berries (Amelanchier spp.).  If you want to be involved with one of our invasive species removal and habitat enhancement events, be sure to register as a volunteer.  We’ll be posting events on our news page and Facebook soon!

Also note that we have a tool loan program, if you’d like to borrow one or several of our weed wrenches for your own invasive species control efforts.  We’re happy to support your conservation projects, big and small!