Identify Non-Native Honeysuckle Before Trying to Remove It

SPRINGFIELD – Native honeysuckle is a popular landscape plant that is enjoyed by humans, hummingbirds, and honey bees. However, non-native species can easily become out-of-control resulting in back-breaking and frustrating attempts to remove.
According to Kelly McGowan, horticulture educator with University of Missouri Extension, the first step toward successful removal is identifying whether the honeysuckle is native or non-native.
“The main way to tell the difference between native and non-native honeysuckles is the growth habit. Non-natives are usually multi-trunked shrubs, but can also be an aggressive climbing vine. Native honeysuckles are also vining plants, but not as aggressive. Natives have pink to reddish flowers and non-natives have yellow to white flowers,” said McGowan.
Non-natives grow very quickly and choke out native vegetation.
“Pruning non-natives to the ground and spraying the stumps are about the only way to get rid of them,” said McGowan.
Examples of non-native honeysuckles include the shrub or bush honeysuckle and Japanese honeysuckle. They are easy to identify this time of the year because of their berries. Bush honeysuckle has bright red berries, and Japanese honeysuckle has dark purple berries.
Shrub or Bush Honeysuckles — in contrast to our native twining vine honeysuckles — are Asian species. “They have been planted as ornamentals and wildlife food plants, but often replace native shrubs and eliminate woodland wildflowers from the forest floor. This completely changes the character of the forest understory to the detriment of native plants and animals,” said McGowan.
Japanese Honeysuckle is a climbing vine brought from Japan in 1806 for use as ground cover. It is now common over much of the eastern U.S. This exotic aggressively colonizes open or forested areas. It can completely cover shrubs and low-growing plants, producing dense shade that prohibits growth beneath it.
For more information contact the Greene County Extension Center at (417) 881-8909.