Honeysuckle Is No Friend to Habitat

Japanese honeysuckleIn the January 2011 issue of Deer & Deer Hunting, Tes Jolly presented an informative piece on how Southern landowners have used pre-established honeysuckle to their benefit as a deer browse source.

By Daniel E. Schmidt, Editor-in-Chief

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.


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