1161 Lonicera maackiiCommon Names: Amur honeysuckle, Chinese honeysuckle, bush honeysuckle Family: Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle Family)
Amur honeysuckle is a vigorous and often invasive shrub (not a vine!) with tardily deciduous leaves and a strong desire to take over the world. This bushy honeysuckle grows with multiple upright stems to a height and spread of 15 ft (4.5 m). The oval leaves are paired, about 2-3 in (5-7.5 cm) long and an inch (2.5 cm) or so wide. The tips are acuminate (long-pointed). The leaves may persist well into the winter before dropping, and new leaves emerge very early in spring. The flowers are typical honeysuckle flowers: tubular with two lips expanded at the ends; white, fading to yellow; sweetly fragrant; and about an inch (2.5 cm) long. The fruits are fleshy berries, about a quarter inch across, ripening to bright red, and containing numerous seeds. The berries are very attractive, hanging in clusters and providing color in fall and early winter.
Lonicera maackii is native to eastern Russia, China, Korea and Japan but it has escaped cultivation and now thrives in many places in the Old and New World. Populations of this Asian exotic are known from Ontario and almost all of the eastern U.S. from North Dakota south to Texas and east to Massachusetts and Georgia. Amur honeysuckle spreads rapidly into open woodlands, abandoned fields, fence rows and other disturbed areas. The common name refers to the Amur River, which is part of the border between China and Russia.
CultureLight: Amur honeysuckle will thrive in full sun to deep shade. Moisture: Amur honeysuckle grows well in moist to dry, well drained soils. Hardiness: USDA Zones 2 - 8. Propagation: The seeds are disbursed by birds. Softwood cuttings can be rooted.
Amur honeysuckle has been widely planted in the U.S. for its fragrant flowers, showy berries, erosion control and for wildlife food for more than 150 years. The U.S. Soil Conservation Service formerly urged its use and even introduced a cultivar, 'Rem Red'. Amur honeysuckle has been used in informal hedges, deciduous screens and in woodland settings. As a specimen shrub, pruned artistically, Amur honeysuckle can be very attractive in the landscape. Amur honeysuckle is tolerant of urban conditions, pollution, deep shade, full sun and most soil types. It grows rapidly, produces showy fragrant flowers and abundant bright red berries. The pretty berries often persist into winter and are a welcome food source for many kinds of stay-at-home (non-migrating) song birds and small mammals, who repay the favor in spades by dispersing the seeds far and wide. And that is the problem: Amur honeysuckle has become an invasive weed in many areas, preventing other trees and shrubs from establishing and displacing native plants.
Amur honeysuckle forms dense, nearly impenetrable thickets in which children play and hide. But that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Lonicera maackii is officially listed as an invasive weed in Wisconsin and Tennessee, and its cultivation is actually prohibited in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and probably some other states as well. Amur honeysuckle invades disturbed sites, but it also invades natural open woods where it may form dense thickets, out competing and displacing native plants. The conscientious gardener would do well to avoid this aggressive interloper and plant the less invasive winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), which also is a vase shaped bush with fragrant white flowers.
Steve Christman 9/2/12