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Decay & Toxicity of Honeysuckle

By Tarah Damask ; Updated September 21, 2017
Certain honeysuckle plants are toxic.

With extremely fragrant flowers, the two main categories of exotic honeysuckle plants seem alluring, but pose major potential problems to your home gardening space. Often considered invasive and poisonous, certain honeysuckle species threaten the livelihood of your garden as well as its human visitors. Unfortunately, for enthusiasts of honeysuckle, the plant is susceptible to decay. Consider the varying associated problems when selecting honeysuckle for your home landscape.


The two main types of exotic honeysuckle are Japanese honeysuckle vines (Lonicera japonica) and bush honeysuckle that belongs to other Lonicera species. Honeysuckle produces black, orange or red berries with a diameter of 1/5 to 1/2 inch as well as aromatic flowers in pink, yellow or white. Native species like American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) also make an appearance in the home garden. Research your selected species before planting.


While honeysuckle is often prized for its ornamental value, exotic species are considered invasive and detrimental to your home garden. When vines become invasive, they encircle trees or create a ground cover that suffocates or girdles plants to death. Whether spread by root sprout or the spread of seeds by wildlife, the threat of these honeysuckle plants outweighs their potential beauty. However, native honeysuckle is typically non-invasive, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Additionally, while honeysuckle nectar and certain flowers are considered edible, most honeysuckle plants are considered toxic and should not be ingested. Pay close attention to the type of honeysuckle you place in your home garden.


Though the NC State University Cooperative Extension System considers the flowers of perennial honeysuckle vines (Lonicera japonica) as edible plant parts, you are advised to avoid the flowers of other honeysuckles. Furthermore, the edible part of the flower is actually the nectar that is harmless when extracted. Toxicity is due to the presence of caratenoids in honeysuckle berries as well as saponic and cyanogenic glycosides that reside in the vine. Avoid ingestion.

If you plant non-invasive honeysuckles in your garden, another problem is their susceptibility to leaf blight. Caused by the fungus Insolibasidium deformans, leaf blight is spread sporadically and attacks honeysuckle foliage leading to the development of rolled leaves and brown lesions where the plant begins to decay. Elevated humidity as well as lower temperatures in a range of 59 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit encourage the development of leaf blight, according to the University of Minnesota Extension.


Due to the toxicity of honeysuckle plants, ingestion may result in symptoms like vomiting, cold sweats and diarrhea. Symptoms may lead to serious problems including coma, convulsions and respiratory failure, according to the NC State University Cooperative Extension Service.

If you are dealing with honeysuckle leaf blight in your garden, the effects range from mild to severe. Your honeysuckle can experience leaf drop and the infection of new growth. Plant death occurs in extreme cases.


If you ingest honeysuckle or feel you have incurred dangerous exposure, contact the Poison Control Center or call 911. To rid your garden of an invasive problem, spot treat with glyphosate, a non-selective herbicide. Choose a 2 percent glyphosate solution, as directed by the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Non-selective herbicides kill all plant life with which they come into contact, so be very deliberate in your application to avoid the death of desired plants. On the other hand, if you are attempting to save desired honeysuckles suffering from decay by leaf blight, apply a fungicide with the active ingredient mancozeb during the spring if pruning dead plant parts is not sufficiently reducing disease, according to the University of Minnesota Extension.


About the Author


Tarah Damask's writing career began in 2003 and includes experience as a fashion writer/editor for Neiman Marcus, short fiction publications in "North Texas Review," a self-published novel, band biographies, charter school curriculum and articles for various websites. Damask holds a Master of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of North Texas.