Whack-a-mole, Plant Edition

Invasive Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is a BIG problem at Fox Island. You’ll see it growing almost everywhere. It’s especially common in disturbed areas, at the edges of forest habitats, and along trails and roads. That means you’ve probably seen it all over the park.

Honeysuckle and other invasive plants can block sunlight for other plants. (photo by Nathan Arata.)

Honeysuckle and other invasive plants can block sunlight for other plants. (photo by Nathan Arata.)

Japanese honeysuckle itself is a vining plant species that grows up, on, and around almost anything. As its name suggests, it is originally from Japan. It was introduced to the United States as an ornamental plant over a hundred years ago. Its white, sweet-smelling flowers made it popular in gardens and landscaping. Its berries make it even more popular for many local animals, especially birds and small mammals. The seeds are easily dispersed and this has caused Japanese honeysuckle to become widespread.

So if you want to identify honeysuckle, what are you looking for? Honeysuckle is a vining plant. That means it generally grows up onto other plants. You’ll probably see honeysuckle growing densely. This can be a huge problem because honeysuckle doesn’t allow a lot of light to pass under it, and it will often grow so fast and so thick that it chokes off the plants that it grows over.

The leaves of the honeysuckle are opposite and oval-shaped, and they can be a few inches long. They are deep green both on top and underneath. (Non-invasive honeysuckle species may not have the same coloration.)

The leaves of honeysuckle are alternate and ovate. (Photo by Nathan Arata.)

The leaves of honeysuckle are alternate and ovate. (Photo by Nathan Arata.)

Japanese honeysuckle, like many of the invasive plants found at Fox Island, can be difficult to remove. Cutting it down is not enough. The roots also need to be chemically treated to make sure it doesn’t grown back. In fact, just cutting down honeysuckle can caused multiple new stems to grow back and effectively turn the plant into a shrub, making it even harder to remove it on the next attempt. (Japanese honeysuckle is also known as Asian bush honeysuckle because of it can also grow as a shrub.)

You are most likely to see Japanese honeysuckle at Fox Island near forest edges, along trails, and around the park boundaries. Some of the largest honeysuckle plants can be found west of Bowman Lake.

Have you seen Japanese honeysuckle in Fox Island? Comment below and let us know when and where you saw it. And contact the park staff to see how you can get involved in removing it!

References

Haley, N. (2019). Personal interview.

Interagency Taxonomic Information System. (2019). Lonicera japonica. Retrieved from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=35283

Ormiston, J. (2019, April). Personal interview.

Painter, T. (2017, November 21). How do I Identify Japanese Honeysuckle vs. American Honeysuckle? Hearst Newspapers. Retrieved from https://homeguides.sfgate.com/identify-japanese-honeysuckle-vs-american-honeysuckle-91276.html

University of Florida. (2019). Lonicera japonica. Retrieved from https://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/plant-directory/lonicera-japonica/