With summer just around the corner, we can’t wait to enjoy warm days in the garden and bask in the scent of our favorite wildflowers. Unfortunately, the sweet smell of honeysuckle won’t be our top pick this year. Despite being a crowd favorite, these fragrant little blossoms are more dangerous than they look. Labeled by the Ohio Invasive Plants Council as an invasive species, honeysuckle can cause years worth of damage if left to grow, deeply disrupting our local ecosystem.
This summer, don’t let those pretty petals fool you. Protect our native forests and ecosystem by learning how to safely identify, remove and prevent the growth of honeysuckle.
What’s the Big Deal With Invasive Plant Species?
The concept of a non-native flower may not sound too bad. After all, new and exotic plants add color and variety to many of our gardens. Unfortunately, honeysuckles are more than just casual tourists in the ecosystem: they’re invasive. Each year, invasive species cause the US more than $34 billion worth of damage to agriculture, forestry, and our environment. If allowed to grow, an invasive plant species quickly overtakes native plants, disrupts local wildlife, and even changes the soil in which it grows.
A honeysuckle bush may not appear particularly threatening, but those small flowers can have a massive effect when allowed to spread. As honeysuckle spreads, the bushes form dense groves, depriving any nearby native plants of sunlight.
How Invasive Plants Like Honeysuckle Harm Bird Populations
Without the usual native plants around, migrating birds begin to feed on honeysuckle fruit, a tasty but remarkably low nutrient food source. We can all appreciate some occasional junk food, but these birds won’t be able to function properly without a balanced, honeysuckle-free diet. By preventing the growth of honeysuckle bushes, we can preserve flourishing native plants and well-fed birds for years to come.
How to Identify Honeysuckle
While many of us can identify honeysuckle by scent alone, knowing exactly how to spot these invasive bushes will be key in keeping your garden safe this year.
Currently, there are three key types of invasive honeysuckle to keep an eye out for throughout Ohio: Amur, Morrow’s and Tatarian. While all three shrubs grow as upright bushes, reaching heights of 6 to 15 feet, their leaves and flowers vary in appearance.
Amur honeysuckle may be the most familiar variety, showing pointed, deep green leaves with hairy undersides and white blossoms on short stems.
Morrow’s honeysuckle bushes tend to have egg-shaped leaves, with white or pink blossoms on longer stems.
Tatarian honeysuckle may be the showiest of them all, with hairless oval leaves and bright pink flowers, but don’t let the flair fool you: these pretty bushes are just as destructive.
These three invasive species can be found in a variety of habitats, all the way from open woodland right to the side of your street.
How to Remove Honeysuckle
Luckily, honeysuckle bushes can be removed fairly easily if caught early. Just grab your favorite trowel and a pair of shears; most honeysuckle bushes are shallow-rooted, so removal shouldn’t take more than an afternoon for a few medium sized bushes.
Be sure to get rid of all roots through pulling or digging. If even one or two roots remain, it won’t be long before you see new stems.
Only With Your Help We Can Save Hundreds of Native Plants (And Do the Birds a Favor!)
This summer, don’t let the sugary nostalgia of honeysuckle keep you from looking out for your plants. By halting honeysuckle in its tracks, you may be helping to save hundreds of native plants, and doing the local birds a big nutritional favor.
As the days get warmer, keep an eye out for the tell-tale white blossoms and pointy leaves of an Amur bush, or the showy pink petals of a Morrow’s or Tatarian honeysuckle. Enjoy a quick whiff, then get to work with your trowel, shears and herbicide to prevent any spread.
Need some new additions this season? When you’re done digging out that honeysuckle, try replanting with your favorite native wildflower, such as the iconic purple coneflower for a colorful pop or the common milkweed for a new delicious fragrance.