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

Plants Not to Confuse with Bush Honeysuckle

One of the most important steps for the control of any invasive plant is learning to correctly identify the culprit and distinguish it from plants with similar characteristics. Although bush honeysuckle is actually very distinct, the untrained eye could potentially confuse it with other shrubs that have opposite leaves or red fruits. If you’re uncertain, seek the advice of someone experienced with plant identification. Volunteering to remove honeysuckle is a great opportunity to hone your identification skills. After a few hours removing bush honeysuckle, you won’t soon forget what it looks like! Remember that bush honeysuckle holds its leaves in the fall much longer than any of the native shrubs described below. With a little experience, you’ll soon find that bush honeysuckle is unmistakable.

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica): [QGL1] One of the plants with which bush honeysuckle is most often contrasted is Japanese honeysuckle, a fragrant vine that is extremely common on fence rows throughout our region. Many people have fond childhood memories of eating the sweet nectar from the base of its attractive white and yellow flowers. Japanese honeysuckle can easily be distinguished from bush honeysuckle, since the former is a vine and the latter is a bush. Unfortunately, this sweet-smelling vine is also highly invasive and damaging to our natural areas! See this invasive species fact sheet from the Missouri Department of Conservation to learn more about control of Japanese honeysuckle, which is sometimes sold in nurseries as Hall’s Honeysuckle. Please remove this plant from your garden and encourage your local nursery not to sell this highly invasive species.

Native Honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.): Unlike the Asian bush honeysuckles, our native honeysuckles in Missouri (members of the genus Lonicera) are all vines. There are three native vining honeysuckles in Missouri (grape honeysuckle (L. reticulata), yellow honeysuckle (L. flava), red honeysuckle (L. dioica) and the cultivated coral honeysuckle (L. sempervirens), which is native to the Southeastern US and occasionally naturalizes in the Saint Louis region. These North American honeysuckle vines are easily distinguished from the invasive Japanese honeysuckle vine. The native honeysuckle vines have larger and thicker leaves and orange or red berries, whereas the leaves of Japanese honeysuckle are smaller and thin and the berries are black.  

Coralberry, buckbrush (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus): Coralberry, also known as buckbrush, is the native shrub most likely to be confused with bush honeysuckle. Coralberry has similar opposite leaves with entire margins, but the leaves are generally smaller compared to bush honeysuckle. The berries of coralberry are dark purple or pinkish, unlike the red berries of bush honeysuckle. Lastly, only the young plants of bush honeysuckle could cause confusion, since coralberry is only 2-4 feet tall. Bush honeysuckle can grow to be 15 feet or more.

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana): American beautyberry is a native shrub that is popular for native landscaping. It has opposite leaves, but its purple berries form in dense clusters encircling the base of the leaves as opposed to the bright red berries that form in pairs at the leaf bases of bush honeysuckle. American beautyberry only reaches 3-6 feet in height, whereas bush honeysuckle can grow to be 15 feet or more.

Eastern Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus): Eastern Wahoo is a small tree or shrub up to 25 feet tall that, like bush honeysuckle, has opposite leaves and bright red berries. However, unlike bush honeysuckle, the stems of wahoo are green and flexible, and sometimes square in cross-section. The berries of Wahoo hang down beneath the leaves on long branching stalks, whereas bush honeysuckle berries are located in pairs against the base of the leaves.

Native dogwoods (Cornus spp.): Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a beautiful native tree for landscaping and is the state tree of Missouri. Although it has opposite leaves and red berries, it is unlikely to be mistaken for bush honeysuckle given that it is a tree rather than a shrub. However, most of our native dogwoods (members of the genus Cornus) are shrubs, including roughleaf dogwood (C. drummondii), silky dogwood (C. amomum), gray dogwood (C. racemosa), and stiff dogwood (C. foemina). These native shrubs do have opposite leaves and can sometimes form dense thickets, but that’s where the similarities end. These native dogwood shrubs form white flowers in dense flat-topped clusters and have fruits that are either white or blue, but not bright red like those of bush honeysuckle.

Possumhaw, Deciduous holly (Ilex decidua): Possumhaw is a small, deciduous tree or shrub, 15-30 feet tall, with pale gray, twiggy, horizontal branches. Possumhaw is conspicuous in winter, with many red fruits along its slender gray twigs. The abundant red fruits could potentially lead one to confuse possumhaw for bush honeysuckle. The leaves of possumhaw are alternate and the fruits are solitary or appear to be in crowded clusters along the branches, as opposed to the alternate leaves and distinctly symmetrical, paired fruits of bush honeysuckle.  

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata): Winterberry is a small native shrub that produces showy red fruits, and several cultivars have become popular for landscaping. Like its relative possumhaw, the abundant red fruits could potentially lead one to confuse winterberry for bush honeysuckle. The leaves of winterberry are alternate and the fruits are solitary or appear to be in crowded clusters along the branches, as opposed to the alternate leaves and distinctly symmetrical, paired fruits of bush honeysuckle. 

Native Viburnums (Viburnum spp.): Blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) and rusty blackhaw viburnum (V. rufidulum) are attractive native shrubs or small trees with opposite leaves. However, these native Viburnums form white flowers in dense flat-topped clusters and have fruits that are bluish purple, but not bright red like those of bush honeysuckle.

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.