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Amur Honeysuckle Lonicera maackii


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Amur Honeysuckle, berries
credit: Fanghong/CCSA

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Family: Caprifoliaceae, Honeysuckle view all from this family

Description Also called bush honeysuckle, this plant is native to temperate eastern Asia. It has escaped from cultivation, naturalized, and become invasive in the forests of the eastern United States.

It is a deciduous large shrub growing to 6 m tall with stems up to 10 centimeters diameter. The leaves are oppositely arranged, 5–9 cm long and 2–4 cm broad, with an entire margin, and with at least some rough hairs on them. The flowers are produced in pairs, commonly with several pairs grouped together in clusters; they are 2 cm long, two-lipped, white later turning yellow or light orange in color; flowering is from mid spring to early summer.

The fruit is a bright red to black semi-translucent berry 2–6 mm diameter containing numerous small seeds; they ripen in autumn, and are eaten by birds, which disperse the seeds in their droppings. It is fast growing and favours shady habitats such as the forest understory, neglected urban areas, and fence rows. It can form extremely dense thickets.

The flowers are sometimes used by children, who remove the blossom by hand, and pull off the bottom to suck out the sweet nectar in the center. The red berries are mildly poisonous to humans and should not be eaten.

Spread of this plant is illegal or controlled in some areas of the United States due to its well documented invasive character. It is listed as a "invasive, banned" species in Connecticut, "prohibited" in Massachusetts, and a "Class B noxious weed" in Vermont. It is also officially listed as an invasive species by government agencies in Wisconsin and Tennessee.

This plant is adaptable and successful in a wide range of conditions. In the United States, Amur honeysuckle was once planted to control erosion, and as hedges. It spread quickly as birds eat the fruit and disperse the seeds, and was soon naturalized. Notably, in deciduous forest understories of the eastern United States it forms dense growths with thick canopies that shade out native shrubs, young trees, and wild flowers. Uncontrolled, these growths create a near monoculture of Amur Honeysuckle. This species poses a serious threat not only to the diversity of the ecosystems which they invade but also to forest regeneration itself, as the plant is known for reducing the the growth and diversity of native seedlings. Moreover studies have shown that plant is responsible for having a negative impact on birds, and tadpoles. In 2010 a study showed that plant may also be linked with tick-born diseases.

Warning Berries may be mildly poisonous if eaten. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Habitat Cities, suburbs & towns, Scrub, shrub & brushlands, Fields.

Range Mid-Atlantic, New England, Eastern Canada, Great Lakes, Texas, Southeast, Plains.