You can buy Japanese honeysuckle plenty of different nurseries. They look remarkable. Their nectar tastes good. You would think that there is nothing bad about them. But there is. This plant is an invasive species. The Lonicera japicona is very harmful to the warm climates in the entire United States, because of its vine-like nature. It chokes any plants that it can reach. But what is an invasive species anyway? Here is the official definition: “A non-indigenous organism that adversely affects the habitat they invade economically, environmentally, or ecologically.” My definition is “An organism that is BAD in the habitat it invades. They grow fast, have rapid reproduction, and a high dispersal range. Do whatever you can to be rid of them before they suck the life out of our native soil.”
The Japanese honeysuckle’s native range is all throughout Japan (no dip) and Korea, but now it has migrated into the United States of America. This plant is a survivor; it can grow almost anywhere: Fields, forests, wetlands… anyplace you can imagine that doesn’t have freezing cold climates.
Although something is invasive, that doesn’t mean it can’t look pretty. Lonicera japonica have oblong leaves on there slender vines that can climb vertically rapidly, but if you want to brag, talk about the flowers. They are tubular, with five fused petals that are white, pink, and sometimes yellow. They are always in pairs, and project curved stamens from the center of the blossom. Japanese honeysuckles also have small berries that are red or orange in their native environment, but are usually purple to black in the invaded setting. The nectar of this plant is sweet, almost like honey (hence the name).
This beautiful flora was brought over to the America’s by the Japanese in the mid-1800’s as an ornamental plant, erosion control, and wildlife forage and cover. Even though it provides all these things, the plant is still problematic. It raids most of the North America, but is absent in the northern plains and in the states of Iowa and Minnesota for Japanese honeysuckle is less resistant in the colder weather.
The Japanese honeysuckle has very few enemies in its new habitat, so it can completely out-compete the natives in that area. The major victims, so to speak, of the honeysuckle are young, small trees and medium-sized shrubs. The vines of the honeysuckle wrap around the trunks awfully tight, therefore squeezing the water supply shut and choking the plant that give it support. Also, if the Lonicera japonica grow up the trunks of trees big enough to survive the swaddling of the vines, they can grow like a canopy between trees in a forest and block out the sun, so the tiny plants on ground floor will die because of lack of daylight. Hard life.
Overall, these plants are not very good for the wellbeing of the plagued habitats they now occupy. But that doesn’t mean they’re all bad. Sometimes they can be amazingly helpful to the health of humans and animals alike. In ancient Asia, the Japanese honeysuckle was a medicinal herb. In different dialects, these words meant different but very similar things. For instance, Rěn dōng tĕng, which means literally “winter enduring vine” and Jīn yĭn huā, which also translates to “gold silver flower”, although they are still both Japanese honeysuckle. These plants all have medicinal powers as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. If you have this plant, you will drive out heat from your body, removing toxins, including fevers, influenza, and ulcers.
Japanese have been hurting and helping the land and people in the America’s since the 1800’s. Now people have to do something about them once and for all. One thing that has been tried is approved burnings in fire-adapted environment in the springs. Some have even attempted to put Glyphosate on the foliage in the fall after most of the native plants in the area have gone dormant (usually in the fall) before the hard freeze.
Many techniques have been tried to control the fast growing creeping plant known as the Japanese honeysuckle, but few have worked. Hopefully in the future of the world, we will find a way to stop the forces of all the invasive species, but for now, we just have to keep searching for the one thing, one cure to save at least one portion of this big blue ball, hurtling around a giant burning star: Earth.