Honeysuckle or Lonicera is in the plant family Caprifoliaceae that contains a variety of ornamental plants and shrubs. There are two forms of honeysuckle: the vine form and the shrub form. The vine form grows well on trellises, fences and walls with support. The shrub forms are good hedges or screens. Honeysuckle is found mostly in the southern and central-eastern regions of the U.S. as cold winter temperatures limit the spread.
This is the most common type of honeysuckle. They are vines that like the heat and are easy to grow. They grow quickly and can be 10 to 20 feet tall. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds with their red, orange and yellow colors. They grow best on trellises or arbors and bloom from spring into mid-summer. They prefer full sun to part shade and will flower more abundantly in the sun.
Japonica is an evergreen, woody vine that can grow from 80 to 120 feet long. The young stems are fuzzy and covered with fine hairs. The leaves are oval, grow on opposite sides of the stem and are about 1 to 2 inches long. Their flowers begin to bloom in late April usually through July. Occasionally they can bloom as late as October. They are tubular or trumpet-shaped and develop in fragrant white pairs that fade to yellow. Japonica has black berries and berries from September through November.
The japonica is a very invasive plant that causes problems in areas such as forest edges, canopy gaps and streams. It out vies native plants for space, light, water and nutrients. This progressively smothers the other plants. In addition, small shrubs and trees can be stunted or killed by the honeysuckle wrapping too tightly around the plant preventing proper water and nutrients from reaching the plants.
This type of honeysuckle is a deciduous shrub. They are found along forest edges, roadsides, fields and other open areas. They grow between 6 and 15 feet tall with flat oval leaves. The flowers are tubular shaped and bloom in early spring in shades of white, yellow and red. Their berries are orange to red and come in pairs.
Due to the fact that honeysuckle grows and spreads so quickly, it is considered an invasive species. The japonica has become so invasive that Florida’s Exotic Plant Council has put the japonica on its list of invasive species. Manual control is the most desirable method of control if the honeysuckle reaches unwanted areas. It’s important to check often for signs to prevent spread. There are also programs available through local extension offices on how to properly identify invasive honeysuckle from the common varieties.
Small patches can be controlled by hand-pulling or digging (with a hoe or shovel) the vines and roots out. Once the plant is pulled out, destroy it to prevent rerooting or reinfestation. However, disturbing the soil can encourage seed germination and growth may start again.
The name Lonicera comes from the German botanist, Adam Lonitzer, who discovered it in the 16th century. The name honeysuckle evolved from the draw of hummingbirds and butterflies that are attracted to the honey or nectar that is easily sucked from the brightly colored, trumpet-shaped flower.