Bush Honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.)
Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae)
Origin and Distribution:
AMUR HONEYSUCKLE (Lonicera maackii) and MORROW HONEYSUCKLE (Lonicera morrowii) originated in Asia and were introduced into North America in the late 1800's. TATARIAN HONEYSUCKLE (Lonicera tatarica) was brought to North America in the mid-1700's from its native Turkey and Russia. . Bush honeysuckles are well established throughout eastern and central U.S. and southern Canada. They are naturalized all over northern Ohio and in some scattered southern locations. They are found in open woods, wood edges, ravines, pastures, fencerows, and no-tillage fields. These shrubs grow best in fertile soils but they tolerate a wide range of soil types.
Bush honeysuckles are large, semi-deciduous shrubs. Although they exhibit a variety of growth habits depending on environment, they generally are comprised of older lower branches from which arching, upward, younger branches arise. AMUR HONEYSUCKLE can grow 30 feet tall, height of TATARIAN HONEYSUCKLE usually does not exceed 10 feet, and MORROW HONEYSUCKLE is the shortest species in the group at less than 7 feet tall. Stems of these introduced species are hollow between nodes, which distinguishes them from less-invasive native honeysuckles that have solid pith. Another distinctive feature is their fruit, which is a red berry. Leaves are hairless or sparsely hairy and egg-shaped with smooth edges. The tubular flowers are generally pink or white fading to yellow and form in pairs at the end of stalks arising from leaf axils. Reproduction is by seeds.
Seedlings and Shoots:
Seedlings and young shoots consist of oval, sparsely hairy leaves attached opposite to one another on reddish, erect stems.
Young stems have brown pith. Mature woody stems are hollow between the nodes. Bark is tan to light brown and often splits or peels lengthwise.
Leaves are opposite (2 leaves per node), and rounded or nearly flat at the base. AMUR HONEYSUCKLE has dark green leaves that end in a sharp point at the tip and the underside of the leaf has hair along the veins. The leaf of TATARIAN HONEYSUCKLE lacks hair on the underside, and has oval, egg-shaped leaves. MORROW HONEYSUCKLE is consistently hairy on the underside and has oval, egg-shaped leaves.
The 2-lipped flowers are comprised of 5 petals united into a tube that is less than 3/4 inch long. When young, flowers are white or pink and they become yellowish with age. Flowers form in pairs on stalks arising from the leaf axils of young branches. TATARIAN HONEYSUCKLE is pale pink and has long and glabrous flower stalks. AMUR HONEYSUCKLE has very short flower stalks, and has white, paired flowers that turn yellow with age. MORROW HONEYSUCKLE has long and pubescent flower stalks, and has white, paired flowers that turn yellow with age.
Fruits and Seeds:
Fruits are juicy berries and most are red, although fruits of some cultivated forms may be yellow or orange.
Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), trumpet honeysuckle (L.mpervirens), and wild honeysuckle (L. dioica) are native honeysuckles that have many features in common with bush honeysuckles except they grow as vines and not shrubs. Belle Honeysuckle (Lonicera x bella) is the hybrid product of the cross between MORROW and TATARIAN HONEYSUCKLES, sometimes designated as Lonicera morrowii x L. tatarica.
Bush honeysuckles flower in May. Birds widely disseminate seeds after eating the fruits. Seedlings emerge throughout the growing season. Bush honeysuckles are non-native species that have been observed to displace native plants and change vegetation structure. Because of the potential to dominate a landscape, they are increasingly regarded as serious pests. Young shrubs less than 3 years old can be controlled by hand-pulling. The most effective control measure for older plants is to cut near ground level and apply herbicide to the freshly cut base.
Bush honeysuckles may be mildly poisonous to children, likely due to toxins in the fruit.
Facts and Folklore:
An ointment made from the leaves of honeysuckles was used to remove freckles, whereas a bouquet of flowers was used to relieve asthma.