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Exotic Bush Honeysuckles
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Species at a Glance
Exotic bush honeysuckles are dense, upright, deciduous shrubs, which usually grow 1.8-6 m (6-20 ft) high. The five most problematic species in Pennsylvania include Amur (L. maacki), Morrow’s (L. morrowii), Standish (L.standishii),
Tatarian (L. tatarica), and Belle honeysuckle, which is a Tatarian-Morrow’s hybrid cross.
Leaves: Oval to oblong or egg-shaped leaves reach 2.5- 6.5 cm (1-2.6 in) in length and are opposite along the stem.
The significant difference between species is the presence of fine hairs on the leaf. Tatarian honeysuckle has smooth, hairless, bluish-green leaves, and Morrow’s has downy leaves. Belle honeysuckle leaves are a combination of the two.
Flowers: Fragrant flowers arranged in pairs less than 2.5 cm (1 in) long occur during May and June. Tatarian flowers are usually pink to crimson in color, while other species are white and become yellow as they age.
Fruits/Seeds: Round berries are usually a deep red, yellow, or orange color. They contain 2-6 seeds and mature in September to October but may remain on the shrub throughout winter.
Stems/Roots: Generally thornless, hairless, and shallow. Older stems have a shaggy-barked appearance and are often hollow.
Exotic bush honeysuckles begin leaf development one to two weeks before other shrubs and native bush honeysuckles, and they also hold their leaves later into the fall. Native honeysuckles also have solid instead of hollow stems.
These plants are relatively shade-intolerant and most often occur in forest edges, abandoned fields, pastures, roadsides, and other open, upland habitats and disturbed areas. Morrow’s honeysuckle is also capable of invading bogs, fens, lakeshores, sand plains, and other uncommon habitat types.
Prolific berries are attractive to deer and over twenty species of birds, which feed on and disseminate the seeds over long distances. Vegetative sprouting also aids in their persistence.
Native to Asia and western Europe, exotic bush honeysuckles were introduced to the United States as ornamentals, and for wildlife cover and soil erosion control. Their spread from the central Great Plains to southern New England and south to the Carolinas includes several Pennsylvania counties where all five exotic species are found extensively.
Note: Distribution data for this species may have changed since the publication of Pennsylvania's Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species (Second Edition 2015), the source of information for this description.
Bush honeysuckle invasions shade out native plant species and alter habitats by decreasing light availability, soil moisture, and nutrients, and possibly by releasing toxins that prevent other plant species from growing nearby. In addition, the fruits, while rich in carbohydrates, do not offer migrating birds the nutrient-rich food sources needed for long flights that are supplied by native plant species.
Information for this species profile comes from Pennsylvania's Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species (Second Edition 2015).