Native Alternatives for Bush Honeysuckle & Other Exotic Shrubs

For alternatives to these exotic or problem shrubs or small trees:
                        Bush honeysuckle (Lonicera maackia, L. morrowii, L tatarica, L. x bella)
            As well as:
                        Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellate)
                        Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)
                        Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii)
                        Burning bush (Euonymus alatus)
                        Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
                        Multiflora (Japanese) rose (Rosa multiflora)
                        Privet (Ligustrum spp.)

We recommend the following sites for control of bush honeysuckle and others:
         
            Curse of the Bush Honeysuckles!, Grow Native and Missouri Department 
                                of Conservation         
                        Missouri Vegetation Management Guides (Click on bush honeysuckle 
                                and others.)
                        Illinois Weed Management Guides (Click on bush honeysuckle and others.)

Some recommended alternatives to bush honeysuckle and other exotic shrubs:

Aesculus pavia
Red buckeye

Red buckeye is a deciduous clump-forming shrub or small tree with an irregular rounded crown. It typically grows 10-20’ tall with showy panicles of red to orange-red flowers in spring. Grow in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade.

 

Amelanchier arborea
Downy serviceberry

Downy serviceberry is an early-flowering, large shrub or small tree which typically grows 15-25' tall in cultivation. A Missouri native with showy, slightly fragrant, white flowers in drooping clusters in early spring. It is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerant of a somewhat wide range of soils.

Aronia melanocarpa
Black chokeberry

Black chokeberry is an open, upright, spreading, somewhat rounded but leggy, suckering, deciduous shrub that typically grows 3-6’ tall. It is noted for its 5-6 flowered clusters of white 5-petaled spring flowers, glossy dark green leaves, black autumn berries and purple/red fall color. It is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Plants have a wide range of soil tolerance including boggy soils.

Callicarpa americana
American beautyberry

Beautyberry is a loose open shrub valued for its spectacular fruits. The relatively insignificant flowers develop into prolific bright violet to magenta berry-like drupes which encircle the stem. These fruits remain attractive for a long time although they are generally gone before severe winter weather. This native plant prefers the soil of its natural forest floor habitat - moist clay or sand enriched with organic matter. It will fruit most abundantly in full sun but may be grown in light shade.

Ceanothus americanus
New Jersey tea

New Jersey tea is a compact, dense, rounded shrub which typically grows 2-3' tall (less frequently to 4'). Tiny, fragrant, white flowers (1/8") appear on long stalks at the stem ends or upper leaf axils in late spring. It is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best in sandy loams or rocky soils with good drainage.

 

Cephalanthus occidentalis
Buttonbush

Buttonbush is a somewhat coarse, deciduous shrub with an open-rounded habit that typically grows 6-12’ tall. Fragrant white flowers appear in dense, spherical, long-stalked flower heads in early to mid-summer. Flower heads are very attractive to bees and butterflies. It is easily grown in moist, humusy soils in full sun to part shade. Grows very well in wet soils, including flood conditions and shallow standing water. Adapts to a wide range of soils except dry ones.

Cornus alternifolia
Pagoda dogwood

Pagoda dogwood is a small deciduous tree or large multi-stemmed shrub that typically grows 15-25’ tall with distinctive tiered/layered horizontal branching which is upward-turned at the tips. It is best grown in acidic, organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Provide consistent moisture and mulch the root zone.

Cornus florida
Flowering dogwood

Flowering dogwood is a small deciduous tree that typically grows 15-30’ tall with a low-branching, broadly-pyramidal but somewhat flat-topped habit. It arguably may be the most beautiful of the native American flowering trees. It is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, organically rich, acidic soils in part shade. Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Inspite of the growing threat of dogwood anthracnose it is still recommended.

Corylus americana
American hazelnut

American filbert (also commonly called hazelnut) is a deciduous, rounded, multi-stemmed shrub which typically grows 8-16' tall. It produces small, egg-shaped, 1/2" long, edible nuts which mature in July-August. Nuts are similar in flavor to the European filbert, and may be roasted and eaten or ground into flour, but are also commonly left for the squirrels and birds. Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade.

Hamamelis vernalis
Vernal witch hazel

Vernal or Ozark witch hazel typically grows to 6' tall and produces pale yellow to dark reddish flowers in mid to late winter (January-March in St. Louis) prior to the emergence of the foliage. Fall color is golden yellow. It is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best flowering is in full sun. Prefers moist, acidic, organically rich soils. Consistent moisture is best.

Hamamelis virginiana
Common witch hazel

Unlike the Ozark witch hazel, common witch hazel is fall-blooming. It is a deciduous shrub or small tree that grows 15-20' tall and as wide. The small but attractive flowers bloom from October to December around the time of leaf drop. Plants of this species are usually the last native flowering plants to bloom in Missouri each year. It is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best flowering in full sun. Prefers moist, acidic, organically rich soils. Tolerates heavy clay soils.

Ilex verticillata
Deciduous holly

Winterberry is a deciduous holly loved for its crop of bright red berries in late summer to fall. Berries are quite showy and will persist throughout the winter and often into early spring. It is a deciduous shrub with an upright-rounded habit that typically grows 3-12’ tall and as wide. It is easily grown in average, acidic, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Adaptable to both light and heavy soils, but prefers moist, acidic, organic loams. Good tolerance for poorly drained soils including wet boggy or swampy conditions. Requires a male pollinator.

Lindera benzoin
Spice bush

Spice bush gets its name from the spicy aroma of crushed leaves. It typically grows 6-12' high and as wide. Flowers of female plants give way to bright red drupes (to 1/2" long) which mature in fall and are attractive to birds. It is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade but tolerates full shade. Fall color is best in sunny areas. The larva (caterpillar) of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly feeds on the leaves of this shrub.

Physocarpus opulifolius
Ninebark

Ninebark is an upright, spreading, somewhat coarse, deciduous, shrub which grows 5-9’ tall and as wide. It is noted for its exfoliating bark which provides winter interest. Small pink or white flowers bloom in late spring. It is easily grown in average, slightly acidic, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade.

Prunus americana
Wild plum

Wild plum is a small single trunk tree or multi-stemmed shrub. As a tree, it typically grows to 15-25' tall with a broad, spreading crown. As a shrub, it suckers freely and can form large colonies. White flowers appear in March before the foliage and are followed by edible, round, red plums with bright yellow pulp which ripen in early summer. It is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Remove suckers to prevent unwanted spread. Fairly adaptable.

Ptelea trifoliata
Hop tree

Hop tree is a dense deciduous shrub or small tree which typically grows to 10-20' tall. It has shiny, dark green leaves which turn greenish yellow in autumn. Fragrant, small greenish flowers appear in late spring, but are not particularly showy. It is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Tolerates full sun. Adaptable to wide range of growing conditions.

Rhamnus caroliniana
Carolina buckthorn

Carolina buckthorn is a deciduous shrub or small tree that typically grows to 10-15' tall. It is noted for its bright shiny green leaves and edible fruits. Somewhat insignificant flowers in May-June but the edible fruits are very attractive to birds. It is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers alkaline soils and consistent moisture. Adapts to a variety of soils and environments. Not to be confused with Rhamnus catharticus which is invasive.

Rhus aromatica
Fragrant sumac

Fragrant sumac is a low-growing, rambling shrub which spreads by root suckers to form thickets in the wild. Typically grows 2-4' tall (less frequently to 6') and spreads to 10' wide. Leaves and twigs are aromatic when bruised. Although smaller, the leaves resemble in appearance those of the related poison ivy. However, fragrant sumac is a totally non-poisonous plant. It is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Can have spectacular fall color.

Ribes odoratum
Clove currant

Clove currant is a thornless, loosely-branched, irregularly-shaped, deciduous shrub that typically grows to 6-8’ tall and as wide. Golden yellow trumpet-shaped flowers appear in racemes in spring and emit a strong clove-like fragrance. It is best grown in organically rich, fertile, medium moisture, well-drained clay or silt loams in full sun to part shade. Prefers full sun.

Sambucus canadensis
American elderberry

American elderberry is a stoloniferous, deciduous shrub which typically grows 5-12' tall and as wide. Fragrant, white flowers appear in spring and are followed by clusters of dark purple to black, berry-like fruits. Grow in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, humusy soils. Spreads by root suckers to form colonies.

Sassafras albidum
Sassafras

Sassafras is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree. It is shrubby in youth, but matures to a dense, pyramidal tree up to 60' tall. Spreads by root suckers to form large colonies in the wild. It is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, acidic, loamy soils. Tolerates dry, sandy soils.

Viburnum dentatum
Arrowwood viburnum

Arrowwood viburnum is an upright, rounded, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub which typically matures to 6-10' tall with a similar spread. White flowers appear in late spring that give way to blue-black fruit which are quite attractive to birds and wildlife. It is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade.

Viburnum lentago
Nannyberry viburnum

Nannyberry is a large, upright, multi-stemmed, suckering, deciduous shrub which typically grows to 10-18' tall with a spread of 6-12'. White flowers appear in spring and are followed by blue-black fruit which often persist into winter and are quite attractive to birds and wildlife. It is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade.

Viburnum prunifolium
Blackhaw

Blackhaw is usually grown as a large, upright, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub with an irregular crown. As a shrub, it typically grows 12-15' tall with a spread of 6-12'. Fruits are edible and may be eaten off the bush when ripe or used in jams and preserves. Also loved by birds. It is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerates drought.

Viburnum rufidulum
Rusty blackhaw

Southern blackhaw, also commonly called rusty blackhaw or rusty nannyberry, is a deciduous, suckering shrub or small tree that typically grows 10-20’ tall. It has glossy, leathery, dark green leaves, tiny white flowers in spring and edible, dark blue berries in fall. Birds are attracted to the fruit. Foliage turns reddish purple in fall. It is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained loams in full sun to part shade.