Friday, November 25, 2011

Japanese Honeysuckle

It’s a shame that some invasive exotic plant species have to be so attractive. These Japanese Honeysuckle fruits almost sparkle in the sunlight. The glossy skin easily reflects the silhouette of the photographer’s head. The honeysuckle would be a joy to see, if it was a native plant. As it is, I’m just aggravated by the showy display.

Japanese Honeysuckle seems to be a replacement plant for other invasives. As I remove Multiflora Rose, Autumn Olive and Bush Honeysuckle, the Japanese Honeysuckle jumps up and takes over that space. The bushier invasives seem to out compete the Japanese Honeysuckle vines. Once the bushes are gone, the spindly vines are free to grow with abandon. If a fruit eating bird eats from one type of woody invasive, it seems to eat from them all, so it makes sense that the seeds from all of these invasives would be dropped in the same general area frequented by the birds.

The key to slowing the influx of invasives onto a site is to eliminate the berry producing individuals. If no fruit is being produced, there is no reason for the fruit eating birds to concentrate in that area. Most of the bird flocks feeding on the invasive fruits seem to concentrate on a single type of fruit until it’s gone. I’ve watched huge flocks of Starlings or Robins come through an area and feed on Bush Honeysuckle that was growing alongside fruit laden Eastern Red Cedars. All honeysuckle berries were consumed, but the cedar fruits were left untouched. Weeks later, the same flocks came through feeding on cedar fruits. My goal is to eliminate fruit production by invasive species and the Japanese Honeysuckle is my next target. If the birds are feeding on native fruit, they will be dropping native seeds. I know that eliminating fruit production won’t stop the influx of invasive species, but I believe it will significantly reduce the amount of new seed coming onto the property.

Japanese Honeysuckle vines growing along the ground don’t seem to produce fruit. It’s not until they ascend some type of structure that you see flowers developing. My first priority will be to cut back all climbing vines and eliminate fruit production. With luck, this will be my last opportunity to photograph Japanese Honeysuckle fruits.

Once I’ve beaten the honeysuckle back to the ground, I can work on ways to kill it completely. Mowing the vines every couple of years keeps them under control, but it doesn’t stress the plants enough to kill them. If I have to live with Japanese Honeysuckle, I’d rather it was in this form than draped over the trees and fences.


  1. Ah, yes, I know all about invasive plants. While being away for ten weeks at a time, I have new and exciting (ha!) things popping up and taking over at will.

  2. What a very interesting post:) I am a very pathetic gardener, but your stories about plants, birds, and plants overtaking other plants is very interesting to read.

  3. Same story here in eastern Missouri, Steve. Reduce the invasive shribs and this viny thing becomes rife!
    Waiting in the wings is wintercreeper Euonymus, a much scarier invasive, because it can actually kill trees with it's tightly bound climbing stems!

  4. Hi Lois. I know what you mean. It's amazing how much change can occur in just a few weeks.

    Hi Mona. Whether you're actively gardening or just paying attention to life outdoors, there always seems to be something fascinating going on.

    Hi James. I pay close attention to the progress of invasive plant movement in neighboring counties, hoping that I'll be aware enough to catch a new invader as soon as it arrives. We've got some nasty things not too far away and I'm dreading the day they show up here.