Not to be confused with Missouri’s native vine honeysuckles, invasive bush honeysuckles such as Morrow’s and Amur are shrubby natives of Asia. Here in the United States, where they have no natural controls, they leaf out in April, grow fast, spread fast and form dense thickets that crowd out Missouri’s native forest plants. If you’ve got a giant green thicket in your woods, you may have a bush honeysuckle infestation.
Why is Invasive Bush Honeysuckle Bad for MO?
- It rapidly moves in an area and takes over, forming a dense shrub layer that crowds and shades out native species.
- It alters the environment: Scientists suspect that bush honeysuckle produces an allelopathic chemical that suppresses the growth of surrounding vegetation.
- It out competes native vegetation: Their leaves appear early in the spring and remain into late fall, giving bush honeysuckle a competitive advantage over native plants. It’s even thought that their flowers are sweeter, thus attracting more pollinators then the native shrubs and flowers. Consequently, natives aren’t able to set enough fruit.
- Rapid reproduction and high dispersal ability: Look at the seeds one bush can produce! The fruit of bush honeysuckle are high in carbohydrates and birds in my yard seem to love it. Over 20 different species of birds feed on it…including the Bluebirds. (source)
- And… their fruits are not the high fat-nutrient rich food that migratory birds need to make their long flights….That diet comes from the fruit of native plants. Plants that disappear when bush honeysuckle moves in and takes over a plant community.
Identifying Invasive Bush Honeysuckle
Unfortunately we’ve ignored the invasion of Asian Bush Honeysuckle (ABH) for a long time and many locations are now heavily infested. Asian Bush Honeysuckle (ABH) can be easy to identify early in spring and late in autumn, since it becomes green earlier and remains green later in the growing season.
How to tell the good from the bad
Missouri’s beneficial native honeysuckle is a vine, and its roundish leaves are closely attached to the stem.The blossoms are yellow to red and trumpet-shaped and appear late April and early May.
How to remove Invasive Bush Honeysuckle
If you are lucky and in a recently infested area, brush piles might be manageable. Fortunately Asian Bush Honeysuckle has a shallow root system, so pulling out fairly large plants in saturated soil is an option.
Hopefully restoration work is not necessary yet. Priority must be on areas that are about to produce fruit and seed. Locating the frontiers of moderate/heavy infestation is helpful because that’s where the birds will be actively spreading seedlings.
Learn more about invasive bush honeysuckle and its control on these sites: