Honeysuckle Is No Friend to Habitat

In the January issue of the magazine, Tes Jolly presented an informative piece
on how Southern landowners have used pre-established honeysuckle to their benefit
as a deer browse source. One thing we should have done a better job at (and I will
take blame for this) is that landowners elsewhere should not introduce this plant
to their properties, especially in the upper Midwest.

My good friend Aaron McCullough of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was
kind enough to share his expertise on the dangers of honeysuckle:

1. Habitat
Japanese honeysuckle  readily invades open natural communities, often by seed
spread by birds. An  aggressive colonizer of successional fields, this vine also
will invade  mature forest and open woodlands such as post oak flatwoods and
pin oak  flatwoods. Forests with either natural or unnatural openings are often 
invaded by Japanese honeysuckle when birds drop seeds into these light gap  areas.
Deep shading reduces the amount of invasion.

2. Life  History
Japanese honeysuckle climbs and drapes over native  vegetation, shading it out.
It is capable of completely covering herbaceous  and understory plants, and climbing
trees to the canopy. The semi-evergreen  condition of this honeysuckle allows
for growth both prior to and after  dormancy of other deciduous plants. The prolific
growth covers and smothers  vegetation present including understory shrubs and
trees in forested  communities. Although this prolonged growth period is beneficial
to the  plant, it is also beneficial in controlling the plant. Vegetative runners 
are most prolific in the open sun and will resprout where touching the soil, 
forming mats of new plants. This honeysuckle will display little growth  under
moderate shade. In deep shade, runners develop but often die back.  Flowering
and seed development are heaviest in open-sun areas. Seedling  establishment
and growth is slow in the first 2 years of development of a  new honeysuckle
colony.

3. Effects Upon Natural Areas
This  aggressive vine seriously alters or destroys the understory and herbaceous 
layers of the communities it invades, including prairies, barrens, glades,  flatwoods,
savannas, floodplain and upland forests. Japanese honeysuckle  also may alter
understory bird populations in forest communities. 

4. Current Status
Japanese honeysuckle is categorized as an  exotic weed under the Illinois Exotic
Weed Control Act of 1987. As such, its  commercial sale in Illinois is prohibited.

Please keep these factors in mind and opt for native browse plantings when planning
your next project.

Dan Schmidt, Editor

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