The Curse of Honeysuckle

Many plants showcase their natural beauty this time of year. However, one plant's beauty is truly deceptive - don't be fooled by honeysuckle!

You may have heard about an incredibly invasive variety of honeysuckle plaguing the entire Midwest, but do you know how to identify it and then take it out? We are here to help provide the facts, so that you can do your part in helping to properly eradicate this invasive species.

What is invasive honeysuckle?
Invasive bush honeysuckles, such as Morrow's and Amur, are native plants of Asia, and were brought to America in 1806 as a means to control erosion. There are several reasons why honeysuckle poses a threat to our native species. The quick growth and spread of the plant can displace native vegetation, and forms an impenetrable layer in the soil. This can lead to a long-term decline of forests by shading out other woody and herbaceous plants.

There are no natural controls for honeysuckle. Not only does the plant itself spread quickly, but birds can snack on the berries, resulting in spreading the plant to another area. While the berries are plentiful, they do not offer migrating birds the high fat and nutrient-rich food required for long flights. In short, everyone loses when honeysuckle is around.

How to identify honeysuckle
If you have a giant green thicket on your property, you are most likely suffering from a bush honeysuckle infestation. Bush honeysuckles are upright shrubs that can reach 15-20 feet in height, and can quickly cover an entire area. In summer, honeysuckle is mostly recognized by the fragrant flowers that bloom white and turn yellow. These tubular flowers will eventually produce red berries that each contain 2-6 seeds. The leaves are narrowly elliptical with a slightly fuzzy underside that grow opposite from each other off a thornless and hollow stem.

Missouri does have a beneficial native honeysuckle, but it is a vining variety and the leaves are closely attached to the stem. The native variety has blossoms that are yellow to red and trumpet-shaped.

What is the best way to get rid of the plant?
Catch the invasions early by pulling up the young plants. The spring time may be the best time to accomplish this because the root system is still shallow. Pulling plants up before the berries form will prevent it from spreading later.

In the summer, a combination of cutting and herbicide is most effective, per the Missouri Department of Conservation. After growing through spring, the stems will become larger and woody, which means a brush cutter, chainsaw or hand tool may be required to cut them down. Cutting will also encourage re-sprouting if not followed by a herbicide. The application of 20% glyphosate (a.k.a. weed killer) sprayed or applied to cut stems should occur in the late summer or early fall. This process may have to be repeated several times to stop the plant from re-sprouting.

When working with herbicides, please follow all label recommendations for mixing rates, application, and safety precautions when using chemicals or herbicides. The key to long-term management is to catch the spread of plants before they start producing berries and ultimately seeds.

Why is honeysuckle a problem when it smells so good?
We understand that the flowers on invasive honeysuckle fill the air with sweet smelling scents that many enjoy. However, per Section 17-101, honeysuckle is declared a "public nuisance." This means that it is a requirement to remove the honeysuckle with any new projects. While it may be almost impossible to totally stop the spread the honeysuckle, the ordinance is in place to make sure residents know that honeysuckle is not an option when choosing plants as part of their landscaping.

For a list of native plants to use in your landscape, visit