Japanese Honeysuckle

Lonicera japonica

Japanese_Honeysuckle_Lonicera_japonica.jpg

Illustration of Japanese honeysuckle leaves, flowers, fruits.
Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica.
Paul Nelson
Invasive
Family

Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckles)

Description

Japanese honeysuckle is a climbing or sprawling, semi-evergreen woody vine that often retains its leaves into winter.

Leaves are opposite, simple, ovate, 1½ to 3¼ inches long. Leaves produced in spring often highly lobed; those produced in summer unlobed. None of the leaves are joined at the base.

Stems are flexible, hairy, pale reddish-brown, shredding to reveal straw-colored bark beneath. Woody stems with yellowish-brown bark, shredding in long papery strips.

Flowers May–June, in pairs in the leaf axils. Flowers white or pink and turning yellow with age, ½ to 1½ inches long, tubular with two lips: upper lip with 4 lobes, lower lip with 1 lobe.

Fruits September–October. Berries black, glossy, smooth, pulpy, round, about ¼ inch long, with 2 or 3 seeds. Berries single or paired on stalks from leaf axils.

Size

Spread: to 20 feet.

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Photo of Japanese honeysuckle flowers, old and new, and buds.
Japanese Honeysuckle
Japanese honeysuckle is an invasive exotic vine.

Japanese_honeysuckle_vine.jpg

Photo of a Japanese honeysuckle stem vining around a branch.
Japanese Honeysuckle Vine
The stems of Japanese honeysuckle are flexible, hairy, pale reddish-brown, shredding to reveal straw-colored bark beneath. Woody stems with yellowish-brown bark, shredding in long papery strips.

Japanese_honeysuckle_flowers.jpg

Photo of Japanese honeysuckle flowers.
Japanese Honeysuckle
Japanese honeysuckle flowers start off white or pink and turn yellow with age.
Habitat and conservation

Escaped from cultivation into thickets, fencerows, openings and borders of woods, rocky slopes, ditches, and along roads. The runners are most prolific in open sun and will root where they touch the soil, forming mats of new plants. Flowering and seed development are heaviest in sunny areas. This vine readily invades open natural communities, often by seed spread by birds. Colonies of Japanese honeysuckle persisting at old homesites provide a seed source for spread into the nearby land.

image of Japanese Honeysuckle Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide sporadically; most abundant in the southeastern counties.

Status

Invasive. Native to Japan, introduced to the United States in 1806 as an ornamental. By the early 1900s, it was widely established over the eastern United States. It climbs and drapes over native vegetation, shading it out. It is capable of completely covering herbaceous and understory plants and climbs trees to reach the canopy, and it may alter understory bird populations. It can become established in forested areas in openings created by treefalls or by natural features that allow more light into the understory.

Human connections

Although this plant has fragrant, showy flowers and can quickly cover unsightly areas, it is an aggressive, non-native invasive plant that is difficult to control. It climbs over and shades out native vegetation. Plant the more interesting, native yellow honeysuckle instead!

Ecosystem connections

Although hummingbirds frequent the flowers, and the vines and berries offer some cover and food for wildlife, this aggressive vine is not to be encouraged. It alters or destroys the native vegetation beneath it, diminishing the populations of birds and other animals that rely on the native plants.