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Honeysuckles are part of the Caprifoliaceae family and the genus Lonicera, with more than 180 identified species. Native to the Northern Hemisphere, they made their way to North America from Asia. In the United States, certain honeysuckle species are considered invasive. They are spread by birds who eat the berries and then expel the seeds as they are flying. These seeds quickly outgrow plants that are native to the area and often have very few predators to hinder their growth. Fortunately, for those who want to grow these sweet-smelling plants, there are native honeysuckles that make an attractive addition to one's yard.
Description and Habitat
Species of honeysuckle can be found in China, India, and Europe and can vary in appearance. Some forms of honeysuckle are vine-growing and may climb trees and walls or cover the ground. Vines can grow up to 30 feet long and are quite strong. Examples of vine-growing honeysuckle are the highly invasive Japanese honeysuckle and the non-invasive scarlet trumpet honeysuckle (L. sempervirens). Other forms are shrub-growing and can grow as tall as 10 to 20 feet, making for good screens or hedges. This includes Tartarian honeysuckle (L. tartarica) and winter honeysuckle (L. fragrantissima). Both forms of exotic honeysuckle have berries that range from orange to red on the bush-growing plants and black on vine-growing. The flowers typically are a tubular or bell shape, have a very sweet and fragrant smell, and are pink, white, or yellow in color. Honeysuckles should be planted in an area that receives full sunlight, but they can withstand partial shade. Both vine- and bush-growing honeysuckles produce more flowers when in full sun and require well-drained soil.
Interaction With Other Species
Numerous insect species use honeysuckle plants as a source of food, but with certain insects, this can be damaging to the flowers, the leaves, or both. Aphids, for example, feed on flowers and leaves and severely damage them by causing them to curl and turn yellow. This type of insect also produces a substance called honeydew, which is sweet and sticky and typically attracts ants and mold growth. Many of the insects that turn to honeysuckle for food are of the Lepidoptera order. This includes butterflies and moths, such as nocturnal moths called Deilephila elpenor that feed on the plant's nectar. Celastrina ladon, or spring azure butterflies, prefer to use the trumpet honeysuckle as a host for their eggs; however, their larvae or caterpillars do use the leaves as a source of food. Honeybees and bumblebees are also pollinators that are attracted to the sweet fragrance of honeysuckles and the promise of nectar.
In addition to insects, birds also use honeysuckles as a source of food. The colorful flowers of the trumpet honeysuckle and its sweet scent and nectar attract hummingbirds to visit and feed. Another bird that's attracted to the nectar and flowers of this plant is the oriole. The fruit of the trumpet honeysuckle is also a food source to birds such as purple finches and hermit thrushes.
Written By Ava Rose.