Bush Honeysuckle
Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), also known as Amur honeysuckle, is one of the most destructive invasive species in the St. Louis region. The Garden recently created a new bush honeysuckle brochure to increase public awareness of this issue and encourage citizens of our region to take notice and take action. This page on invasive bush honeysuckle provides complimentary information for the brochure, including expanded content on its origins and impacts, detailed instructions for control, native plants that are similar in appearance, and suggested landscaping alternatives.
Honeysuckle History

Origin, History and Invasion

Bush honeysuckle, also known as Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), is native to far eastern Asia, primarily in China, Russia, Mongolia and North Korea. It was collected in 1855 by the Russian botanist Richard Maack, whose surname is the basis for the scientific name of the species, Lonicera maackii. As early as 1883, it was cultivated at the St. Petersburg Botanical Garden in Russia, and further shared with botanical gardens and nurseries elsewhere in Europe.

In the final years of the 19th century, bush honeysuckle was introduced to botanical gardens in North America via the exchange of seed with European botanical gardens. From 1960-1984 the US Department of Agriculture promoted bush honeysuckle and developed so-called “improved” cultivars, selecting for traits such as increased fruit production that further contributed to its invasive potential. It was planted for wildlife habitat and erosion control, though it is poorly suited for those purposes. Bush honeysuckle’s popularity as an ornamental plant was the primary source of its invasion.

As early as the mid 1920s its escape from cultivation was documented near the Morton Arboretum outside of Chicago, though it became increasing popular as an ornamental plant for many decades afterwards, especially the 1950s through the 1980s. Beginning in the 1950s, its escape from cultivation and invasion became more widespread in states further to the east. In Missouri, it wasn’t documented outside of cultivation until 1983, when it was collected in a St. Louis rail yard. Bush honeysuckle has now spread throughout much of the state, but is most concentrated near urban areas 

For more information on the origin and invasion of bush honeysuckle, see: Amur honeysuckle, its fall from grace: Lessons from the introduction and spread of a shrub species may guide future plant introductions.

Bush Honeysuckle Removal and Control

When: Bush honeysuckle can be removed any time of the year. However, early spring and late fall are ideal for locating and removing this invasive shrub, since it has leaves when our native shrubs and trees do not. Once you develop an eye for the yellowish-green leaves of bush honeysuckle in late fall, this time of the year is ideal for detecting isolated shrubs and removing them before the infestation expands.

How: There are multiple effective methods of removing bush honeysuckle. Selecting the right approach depends upon a number of factors, such as the area covered by the invasion, the size of the plants to be removed, and your personal capabilities and preferences. These instructions are intended to provide homeowners and volunteers information necessary to take action against bush honeysuckle. Some additional methods for controlling large-scale infestations used by professional contractors and conservation organizations with highly specialized equipment and experience are not addressed.