Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bush Honeysuckle

Control of woody invasive plants such as this Bush Honeysuckle, progresses in certain phases. Phase 1 is the aggressive elimination of mature specimens. Completion of phase 1 is highly satisfying because you can see an immediate change. You can imagine complete dominance over the invaders and you might find yourself feeling just a bit superior to those who lament the never ending battle against invasive plants. Then comes phase 2 where you suddenly notice a seedling plant of the species you thought was so thoroughly vanquished.

A single seedling wouldn’t be bad, but there’s never just one. As your mind accepts the search image, you suddenly see more seedlings everywhere you look. Then the illusion of dominance over invasive species abruptly crumbles and you remain humbled before an adversary that you had grossly underestimated. The realization that the hard part of the work is still ahead of you can be very disheartening.

This 2011 seedling is healthy and ready to put on some rapid growth over the next couple of years. It’ll still be a while before it matures enough to produce fruit. The objective of phase one invasive species control is to eliminate reproductive individuals. Once reproduction has been stopped, the accumulation of new seeds is almost eliminated. That means that the seemingly unending task of removing new plants will progressively become more manageable.

Bush Honeysuckle seedlings are easy to pull from the ground. I collected a small sample and laid them out in the classic market hunter’s pose.

I believe this to be the parent plant to many of the seedlings. Birds feed on the fruits one day and when they return the next day for another meal, they are highly likely to pass yesterday’s seeds along with their droppings. A fruiting shrub surrounded by seedlings is a common sight.

Bush Honeysuckles remain green and hold their leaves longer into the fall than most native shrubs, so they are easy to spot at this time of year. The positive aspect of this honeysuckle encounter is the condition of the surrounding woods. This woods was thick with mature honeysuckle just a few years ago. The sight of an otherwise honeysuckle-free woods is a positive enough experience to counteract any disappointment I might have felt at the discovery of the one lone mature honeysuckle.


  1. We know this plant all too well, it's quite common around here. At least it is easy to dig up with its shallow roots. I wish I had a dollar for every one we've removed! Congrats on your removal success!

  2. Imagine the frustration of removing the mature individuals of this plant and returning the next season to find not only their babies, but those of one or more other species that will be the next wave(s) of invasion if not controlled. This is what many of us face, working in conservation areas with a past of "planting for wildlife" involving privet, vine honeysuckle, buckthorn, autumn olive, etc., as virtually every state agency and many private owners have.
    Fire can help suppress them, but it does not kill the invaders, and it is not an option either chosen or available (or both) to many. The work, both anticipated and current, is daunting, and can seem fruitless!
    (I suppose fruitlessness of the invasives is a good thing, though.)

  3. Thanks Julie. I agree that Bush Honeysuckle has a few traits that make it one of the easier invasives to deal with.

    Hi James. There always seems to be another invasive ready to take the place of any you remove. Invasive control may sometimes seem like an impossible task, but if the alternative is to do nothing, I'll work at the impossible.

  4. Do the larger plants have the shallow roots? The plants around here,Licking county,grow so large. I cut off limbs for walking sticks. Fence rows that were filled with multiflora rose,are now filled with honeysuckle. When you spray,are you spraying large bushes or cutting and waiting for new growth.

  5. Hi Brad. The larger honeysuckle bushes have shallow roots, but the total root mass is extremely large. I always cut the large bushes to within a few inches of the ground and then spray the sprouts with glyphosate in the spring. This method requires less herbicide use and reduces the chance of accidentally spraying something you don't want killed.