Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Japanese Honeysuckle

This is Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, one of those invasive plants that can really hurt native plant populations. It doesn’t look like much of a threat at this stage.

Japanese Honeysuckle is a vine and given a chance will begin to look like this. Quite a tangled mess and not at all what I have in mind for Blue Jay Barrens woods.

The vine gains altitude by spiraling around any nearby vertical object. Small trees and shrubs cannot expand their trunks when bound by the honeysuckle vine. Eventually, the flow of sap is stopped and the shrub dies. Even if the vine is removed, a weak spot is left that will eventually allow the trunk to break.

The vine grows as high as it can reach and then branches out. The mass of honeysuckle leaves shades the supporting tree. The added weight of the honeysuckle often causes the already stressed tree to fall.

The vines are not limited to aerial growth. Ground hugging vines will travel for long distances. This allows the plant to cover large areas in a hurry.

Each node along the stem can send more roots into the ground and more vines into the air. This strategy allows one plant to become a major infestation without ever producing the first seed.

Vines that receive enough sunlight produce masses of blooms in the early summer. The flowers and their sweet scent make this plant a favorite among many people and it angers some when they see me killing Japanese Honeysuckle. I often make people angry, so it’s not a new experience for me.

Those blooms eventually become berries full of seeds. Sprawling vines are wonderful for infesting a small patch, but it takes seeds to really get out and conquer new territories. Each berry contains several seeds that are easily spread by the birds.

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