Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fruits of Fall- Bush Honeysuckle

MDC Pamphlet *
We have written on several of the bright fruits of fall lately.*  Now for the bad news.  If you are seeing bright red berries on bushes with yellow-green leaves when other plants have lost theirs, you are likely seeing our prolific invasive species, the bush honeysuckle.
These Lonicerna species were brought here from Asia for their beautiful flowers, bright red berries and their fragrance.  Its species have spread throughout the Eastern US where it is recognized as an official "noxious" or "invasive species".  It is rapidly spreading throughout Missouri, and can be seen along almost any roadside fence line or woods.  Ironically, some are endangered species in Japan!
Colorful fragrant flowers with bright red fruit- what's not to like?  In the words of the Alien Plant Working Group:
"Exotic bush honeysuckles can rapidly invade and overtake a site, forming a dense shrub layer that crowds and shades out native plant species.  They alter habitats by decreasing light availability, by depleting soil moisture and nutrients and possibly by releasing toxic chemicals that prevent other plant species from growing in the vicinity.  Exotic bush honeysuckles may compete with native bush honeysuckles for pollinators, resulting in reduced seed set for native species.  In addition, the fruits of exotic bush honeysuckles, while abundant and rich in carbohydrates, do not offer migrating birds the high-fat, nutrient-rich food sources needed for long flights that are supplied by native plant species."

Click to enlarge

Not all Lonicera species are invasive, but unfortunately some sources do not mention their invasive characteristics.   Birdsandblooms.com's Top-10-Berries-for-Birds  for instance doesn't differentiate between the noninvasive and invasive species that are readily available for purchase.

Bush honeysuckles stand out this time of year as they still have their leaves, islands of yellow-green leaves and bright red fruit among the bare branches of native bushes.  So where can you find them and what can you do?  Unfortunately bush honeysuckle is found invading parks, untended lots in downtown Springfield and even formal gardens.  Once spotted, you can pull the smaller ones which have shallow roots.  Larger plants should be cut at the base and the stump treated with stump killer such as 20% glyphosate such as Rodeo or Roundup.  All the information you need is at this MDC website.

A good source of photographs for identification is at this  Vanderbilt.edu website.

*   Curse of the Bush Honeysuckle pdf is available here or at the Conservation Nature Center.
** Fruits of Fall I and Fruits of Fall II.

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