Gardeners plant lots of different plants from all over the world. Some are for food. Others are for their beauty or fragrances. Some of these discover the New World. Japanese Honeysuckle is one of these.
Lonicera japonica Thunb. ex Murray
April to October I Family: Caprifoliaceae
Flower: Flowers sit on a pair of green, pointed, spreading, hairy calyxes in leaf nodes. The flower is a tube for about an inch. Short hairs cover the outside of the tube. The tube then splits into two lobes. The upper lobe has two grooves ending finally diving the lip into three lobes. The lower lip is single but possibly grooved or split at the end into two. These lips add about another inch to the flower. The five stamens and pistil stick out of the flower.
Leaf: Opposite oval leaves are sessile and spaced along the younger vines. They have a strong midvein with pairs of side veins easily seen on the underside of the leaf. The leaf is dark green and shiny on top, lighter green on the under side. Short hairs are found along the veins.
Stem: Young stems are reddish and covered with hairs. Older stems have shredding woody bark. The stems are vines reaching 15 feet or more and twining about objects they encounter including other stems.
Root: Fibrous perennial roots put out rhizomes. Stems root at leaf nodes if they touch the ground.
Fruit: The seeds are in dark purple berries most commonly seen in fall.
Habitat: This plant grows almost anywhere but prefers drier areas especially fence lines or edges of woods.
When Japanese Honeysuckle starts blooming in the spring, the scent hangs heavy on the air for ten feet or more from the vines. It is a sweet odor clinging like perfume, indeed is used in perfume.
This was one of the reasons this vine was planted. The flowers are a brilliant white against the dark green foliage making it a pretty plant. Other reasons were it’s fast growth, lack of soil fussiness and long blooming period.
The plants bloom into the fall even through light frosts. The late flowers don’t produce berries as they freeze. They do still spread their perfume.
Numerous insects visit the flowers. There is a sweet drop of nectar in each flower which can be tasted safely. Birds eat the berries and spread the seeds.
The vigorous vines twine around anything they encounter tightly enough to strangle other plants. They layer over themselves smothering other plants and fences. Rhizomes start colonies of plants. Stems root at any leaf nodes that touch the ground.
The vines left the gardens behind and moved into the wild. They took their aggressiveness with them. They are now considered an exotic invasive species.
Most vines in the Ozarks are deciduous dropping their leaves in the fall and going dormant for the winter. Japanese Honeysuckle is not deciduous keeping its leaves as far into the winter as it can dropping them only if they freeze solid. This means the vines start growing as soon as the weather warms in the spring long before other vines have leafed out giving this invader a distinct advantage.
Check out the sample pages for Exploring the Ozark Hills under My Books. The book has 84 essays and lots of photographs.