Native to eastern Asia, the Amur Honeysuckle is a large invasive shrub or small tree, typically between 6 and 16 feet in height. Amur Honeysuckle is multi-stemmed and has arching trunks and branches that form large thickets. The bark is tan and stringy, and its 2 to 3” long leaves are opposite, simple, and oval shaped. The plant is monoecious, meaning that individuals have both male and female parts, and has tubular, fragrant white flowers with very thin petals that appear in late spring. Its abundant red berries, ¼” in diameter, appear in late summer and persist through the winter.
The berries are a favorite of frugivorous (fruit-eating) birds such as cedar waxwings, leading to even faster spread of this invasive species. However, they are mildly poisonous if consumed by humans. Red squirrels use the stringy bark extensively as nest-building material.
This fast-spreading plant thrives in a variety of disturbed habitats, such as fencerows, roadsides, suburban woodlands, pastures, and lawns. It can tolerate a variety of soil pHs and moisture levels, including soils that are inundated with floodwaters for short periods of time like those in the Cannon River floodplain. It tolerates extreme weather conditions, like summer droughts and particularly harsh winters, better than many native plants.
In the Arb:
Honeysuckle is abundant near the Lower Arb entrance by West Gym and along most of the woodland paths in the Arb. As with Buckthorn, the Arboretum staff intensively try to curtail its spread with clearing and burning every year.