The honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae) comprises about 180 different plant species, some of which are vines and others shrubs. The Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is native to Eastern Asia, while the American honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis), also called the American fly honeysuckle or Canada fly honeysuckle, is native to North America. Although these two honeysuckle species may look similar at first, with a closer inspection of the plants’ characteristics, you can easily identify the Japanese versus the American honeysuckles.
Identify the honeysuckle type by studying its form. The Japanese honeysuckle is a vine, while the American honeysuckle is a shrub.
Determine the honeysuckle species by its mature size. The American fly honeysuckle grows to only 6 feet tall at most, while the Japanese honeysuckle vine can reach 30 feet.
Decipher between the two honeysuckle species by studying the flowers. The Japanese honeysuckle has elongated, 1 ½-inch-long white flowers that appear in clusters from April until July. The American honeysuckle blooms in early spring with greenish-yellow, five-petaled flowers that grow in pairs.
Identify the honeysuckle type by its leaves. The American honeysuckle has smooth leaves with extremely fine hairs on the edges that are arranged opposite each other in pairs along the stems. The Japanese honeysuckle also has smooth, opposite leaves with some fine hairs, but its leaves often have more of a curled or rumpled appearance.
Study the stems to identify a Japanese versus an American honeysuckle. The Japanese honeysuckle has reddish-brown, slightly hairy stems, while the stems of the American honeysuckle are brownish-gray, woody and bark-covered.
- You can also identify a Japanese honeysuckle's flowers by noticing the pinkish or purplish tint on the petals when they're younger.
- The Japanese honeysuckle produces seeded berry fruits that ripen in autumn.
- Both the Japanese and American fly honeysuckle species can be invasive.