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BUSH HONEYSUCKLE

Binomial: Lonicera maackii (lo-NISS-er-uh / MACK-ee-ie)

Family: Caprifoliaceae (kap-ri-foe-lee-AY-see-ee), the Honeysuckle Family

This is the week when Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) is in full flower.  This is our second-chance of the year to get rid of it.  Our first chance was in March when it was again so easy to see - even the little ones.

These flowering plants will be older and harder to pull out.  But if the soil is soft enough, a person with good gloves might still have some success pulling these shallow-rooted plants out of the ground.  If not, they'll have to be cut down.  A folding saw will be the best tool for this.  After cutting, it's a good idea to paint the cut trunk with some herbicide (glyphosate or triclopyr) to prevent it from resprouting.  Otherwise we'll have to return from time to time to cut off the sprouts until the plant runs out of energy.  But even if we never return, cutting it down today still accomplishes something immediate and significant.  It prevents the flowers from setting fruit this year and the birds from planting another crop of it with their excreted seeds. 

There are probably some who feel that we shouldn't be interfering with nature.  The problem is that we already interfered with nature when we brought this admittedly beautiful plant to St. Louis from some faraway land where it was in balance and behaved nicely.  Here in St. Louis it is not in balance and it sure isn't behaving nicely.  With so few pests and so little competition, it acts like it owns the place.  It wakes up in the cold of March, way earlier than our native plants, and proceeds to shade them out of existence.  And that's not all.  When our native plants disappear, so do our native insects and the countless other organisms that depend on them. 

 

Lonicera maackii with its interesting double-double-vowel spelling does not behave like this in Japan.  In fact it's listed as an endangered species in Japan, strange as that sounds.  This is not Japanese Honeysuckle.  We do indeed have a Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) in St. Louis and it is indeed a big problem.  But it's a vine, not a bush.  This week our target is Big Mack, the bush.  Its common name is "Amur Honeysuckle" but in real life everybody just seems to call it "Bush Honeysuckle".   If you're unfamiliar with it, here's a short (2:49) VIDEO clip from a St. Louis news broadcast.

Technically we also have a second, less common bush honeysuckle in our area - a hybrid called "Showy Honeysuckle" (Lonicera x bella).  Unlike L. maackii, its flowers have a pink tint to them and are connected to the plant with a noticeable stem (pedicel).  Also, Bella's leaf tips aren't as long and acuminate as Big Mack's.  But since Bella is also a threat to our rich diversity, it too should be removed.

We have 4 Lonicera species in the St. Louis area:

  1. Lonicera maackii (Amur Bush Honeysuckle)

  2. Lonicera japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle Vine)

  3. Lonicera xbella (Showy Honeysuckle)

  4. Lonicera sempervirens (Trumpet Honeysuckle Vine) [Native to U.S.]

 

We've already mentioned the first three - all troublemakers.  But there's a 4th species, Lonicera sempervirens (Trumpet Honeysuckle Vine) which is a native.  This vine is a favorite of hummingbirds with its red tubular flowers.  Best of all, it's reasonably well-behaved.  So let's make sure that we don't accidentally remove it.  If you're not familiar with this beautiful native honeysuckle vine, here's a fairly short (7:40) VIDEO by the ever-patient Angelyn Whitmeyer who explains the life cycle of our resplendent Lonicera sempervirens.

For those who pull out bush honeysuckle by just looking at the leaves, it's important to know what our native Coralberry looks like.  It's in the same family (Caprifoliaceae).  Please click its name Symphoricarpos orbiculatus to see its picture and to read its description from IllinoisWildflowers.info.

For those of us trying to better learn our different flower types, the honeysuckles can help:

STANDARDIZED FLOWER COMPARISON FORM: (please click for GLOSSARY)

INFLORESCENCE: The flowers appear in pairs in the axils of leaves on the current year's growth.

CALYX: There are 5 small, fused, light green sepals.  The sepals have stalked glands and long, straight hairs.

COROLLA:  There are 5 petals (with the upper 4 being fused).  They are white in color, fading into yellow with age.

ANDROECIUM: There are 5 free stamens with yellow anthers, lined-up with the sepals.

GYNOECIUM: The inferior-positioned ovary is composed of 2-5 fused carpels with a single style and a knobby green stigma.

FRUIT: The ovary matures into a red berry that is somewhat translucent.

To view information-rich flower and leaf photos of Lonicera maackii, please visit: MissouriPlants.com.  To view its berries and to read an always beautifully-worded description from the Illinois side of the border, please visit: IllinoisWildflowers.info.

- Michael Laschober

Week #7 (May 1-7) Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii)

Locations found: [BABL, CUIV, DONR, GLAS, LABQ, MERA, POWD, ROCK, SHAW, WASH, YUNG]

Please click on the button below to see a list of all our St. Louis Caprifoliaceae plants.