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Apr 27

Species Profile: Japanese Honeysuckle

The smell of Japanese honeysuckle reminds me of the national flower of the Philippines, the sampagita, which bloomed around my birthday.  The fragrance of Japanese honeysuckle flowers strongly triggers memories from my youth, and luckily, I can enjoy the scent as I harvest the blossoms and participate in invasivory.

The invasive Japanese honeysuckle

Japanese honeysuckle (Photo credit John D. Byrd of Mississippi State University and USDA Plants)

My first encounter with the Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) was at my undergraduate campus, the University of California, Irvine.  The pathway that forms a circle around the campus (called “ring road”) is well landscaped and lined with manicured trees and shrubs.  Oddly enough, on my way to my plant evolution and systematics class, I noticed this innocuous-looking creeping shrub with white and yellowish flowers, an intoxicating smell similar to that of Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac), and at the end of its long carpel is a reward of a delicious drop of sweet honeysuckle nectar.

Distribution and ecological harm

Little did I know, this modest shrub—with its sweet smell and taste—was a dangerous invader!  Native to east Asia, and introduced to New York as an ornamental and for erosion control, the Japanese honeysuckle has been documented to have invaded most of the lower 48 states and Hawaii.   It is known to kill neighboring shrubs and saplings by girdling with its fast-growing vines;  so native plants beware, these east Asian invading creep(er)s are fragrant, silent, and deadly.

Distribution of Japanese honeysuckle in the US (green is where it is present). Image credit: EDDMapS.org

Edibility of Japanese honeysuckle

Though Japanese honeysuckle berries are interesting in their own right as a potential cause of hybrid speciation in Rhagoletis fruit flies, the berries are unfortunately unsafe for human consumption.  On the contrary, both the flowers and nectar are safe and quite tasty.  From an Invasivory standpoint, harvesting flowers is doubly beneficial because the flowers can be consumed (or simply enjoyed for its bi-lobed and bilaterally symmetrical beauty and fragrance) and it prevents that flower from setting seed and further spread (as its primary method of seed dispersal is by bird).

***Check out our recipe for Honeysuckle Simple Syrup to see how to use this fragrant flower***

5 pings

  1. Recipe: Honeysuckle simple syrup | Invasivore.org

    [...] 28th, 2011 at 7:48 On my way home one day I caught a whiff from a flowering vine and found the Japanese honeysuckle.  Its flowers were fragrant and sweet, and I thought some of is leaves didn’t look [...]

  2. Recipe: Lime honeysuckler | Invasivore.org

    [...] tiny umbrella or garnish with a left over honeysuckle flower or another invasive [...]

  3. Recipe: Lazy Loni | Invasivore.org

    [...] Lazy Loni July 1st, 2011 at 8:05 In the genus Lonicera, the honeysuckle blooms in summer and thus makes a refreshing drink for a warm and lazy summer afternoon. [...]

  4. Out to Eat! October 16, 2011 | Invasivore.org

    [...] Omega members remove invasive Japanese honeysuckle from a local park.  Hopefully they saved the flowers to make syrup! share: Blog this! Digg this post Recommend on Facebook Share on Linkedin share via [...]

  5. Guest Post: Honeysuckle Tea | Invasivore.org

    [...] from Boise gave Japanese honeysuckle a try.  You’ll recall our line of awesome honeysuckle mixed drinks a while back.  He helped [...]

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