By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
I think it’s safe to say that this winter has been ROUGH. From multiple accounts of snow and ice, to blistery cold winds, the South has seen its fair share of winter weather this year. All this cold has me (I’m sure I’m not alone) wishing for milder temps and greener woods. When I think of milder temps, I think of an abundance of sunshine and blooming flowers, and even honeysuckle! This lovely, twining vine may be easy on the eyes, but it is definitely hard on our native vegetation.
Lonicera japonica, or Japanese Honeysuckle, is the most widespread invasive species in the South. A few dense infestations can be found scattered throughout Mississippi and even Tennessee, but they don’t stand a chance against the monumental infestations in Alabama. From right of ways to understory, honeysuckle can be found in all forest types. To add to its hardiness, Japanese Honeysuckle is shade tolerant and spreads most commonly by regenerating itself at root nodes. Animal dispersal and/or wind dispersal does not affect the reproduction of this vine. Honeysuckle arrived in the in the U.S. in the early 1800s. It was originally introduced from Japan and into England, but quickly made its way across the pond. Traditionally, honeysuckle was valued as an ornamental and has become very common around mailboxes and along fence posts. It is also craved by deer! Even today, many landowners and hunters plant honeysuckle in food plots to entice deer. The bright green tender leaves and long, yellowish flowers are the most common characteristics of honeysuckle. Also, who could ever forget the smell of honeysuckle? There is nothing quite like the smell of a thicket of honeysuckle during late spring. I don’t know about you, but I used to pull all of the stamens out of the middle and lick the “honey” that was deep down in the flower. Honestly I can’t blame the deer; Japanese honeysuckle tastes as good as it looks!
Honeysuckle is really a wicked invasive in the grand scheme of things, but it’s just so darn pretty! I believe honeysuckle brings both pros and cons to the table and it is up to the individual whether they want to eradicate it, or let it do its thing. If I had to choose an invasive species to live with, I would choose honeysuckle. At least it would attract wildlife!
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