How to kill honeysuckle?

With its long-lasting green leaves, pretty flowers and abundance of berries, honeysuckle — a woody shrub — appears to be a great addition to Ohio’s landscape.

But, you know what they say about appearances. They can be deceiving.

Honeysuckle is an invasive plant that produces unhealthy berries for wildlife, and because it retains its leaves much longer than most plants it creates a canopy of shade on the forest floor which suffocates native wildflowers, explained Ryan McEwan, assistant biology professor at the University of Dayton.

“Honeysuckle is the first shrub that you will see that greens up in the spring, and the last to drop its leaves in the fall,” said Mary Klunk, Conservation Manager of Five Rivers MetroParks in Dayton.

THE PROBLEM

Honeysuckle takes over quickly and can grow to 20-feet tall, said Jeff Dorton, landscape designer and salesman at Berns Garden Center & Landscaping located in Middletown and Beavercreek.

“It is a threat to our landscape because it can rapidly invade and overtake an area forming a dense shrub layer that will crowd out our native plants,” Dorton said. “The spring flowers develop into a red fruit that is attractive to over 20 species of birds, who then deposit the seed everywhere, accounting for the rapid spread of the plant.”

And each year, honeysuckle is gaining more ground.

“Honeysuckle is getting worse through time, so this year is worse than last year which was worse than the year before,” McEwan said. “Here in Ohio, the invasion really started; it is very widespread even all the way into Kentucky.”

Honeysuckle was planted originally in Oxford for erosion control, McEwan said, and scientists are trying to unravel the complicated question of why the plant behaves so differently in North America than it does in its native China where it is almost impossible to find.

But scientists are sure that honeysuckle is invasive, aggressive and down right stubborn here in Ohio.

HOW AND WHEN TO ELIMINATE IT

“It is extremely difficult to eliminate. When mowed, it will try to regenerate itself quickly. You can’t cut it or spray it once and expect the job to be done,” said Greg Meyer, Ohio State University Extension Educator – Warren County.

Honeysuckle can be mechanically removed or chemically treated, he said.

“For just a few plants, homeowners should cut it off at the ground; treat it with a brush killer and then mow/bushhog the area on very regular basis to keep the plant from making any new leaves. New leaves mean photosynthesis and more energy for the plant, Meyer said. “You are trying to make the plant use up all of its stored energy. Once its energy is gone, then that part of the battle is over. Once eliminated, work to get some desirable plants established, so the honeysuckle doesn’t have a blank slate to start all over again.”

Any time is a good time to get rid of honeysuckle, Dorton said, but fall makes identifying the plant easy because of its bright red berries.

“There are a number of ways to get rid of honeysuckle. Small plants can be pulled by hand. A great way to get a strong grip on small plants is to use a pair of pliers, grasping the plant near the base. Larger plants can be dug or pried out of the ground. Full size plants will need to be cut down with a chainsaw and the stumps removed with a stump grinder,” Dorton said.

According to Klunk, the drought has shortened the amount of time to remove honeysuckle in some areas. She said that as the honeysuckle leaves turn yellow it is getting ready to enter its dormant stage, which will decrease the effectiveness of a herbicide so a cut-and-treat option will work better — cut the tree and treat the stump immediately with a herbicide.

“When you have small populations of honeysuckle — when the plants are small, that is the time to act,” McEwan said noting that the larger the plant the more labor intensive the removal can be.

For more information on honeysuckle control, McEwan recommends visiting www.oipc.info, the website of the Ohio Invasive Plants Council and clicking on Invasive Plants/Species List/Amur, Morrow & Tatarian Honeysuckle; this will direct you to the Department of Natural Resources Website.

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How to remove honeysuckle shrubs

Given the choice between keeping or replacing large invasive, non-native bush honeysuckle shrubs to screen an ugly view, homeowners often choose to keep the honeysuckle. The thought of living with an ugly view for a few years while waiting for a replacement to fill in can be a bitter pill to swallow.

So here is a remedy to help you take a step in the right direction. You don’t have to remove all the honeysuckle at once; replace 10% to 20% of it instead. In subsequent years, repeat the process until the job is done. This may be the way to go if you have a lot of them, but will be helpful even if you have five or six. You shouldn’t have to give up much view each year, and you will be amazed how painless the process can be.

How to remove
Fall and winter are great times to begin identifying and cutting down large honeysuckle shrubs. In November honeysuckle leaves turn light yellow, and plants have bright red berries. Leaves are arranged in pairs on either side of the stem. Also, branches bigger than a half-inch have vertically striped bark. This is a great time to scout for plants big and small. Mark them with colorful ribbon or flagging tape so you can come back to them when they are bare twigs — and when they look much like other shrubs in the woods.

Once you have plants identified and marked, it is time to begin removing some of them. Start at the edge of the patch. You will need a very sharp hand or chain saw. Dull blades will make the work miserable, so start with new or newly sharpened equipment.

Scott Woodbury

COLORFUL FALL: While honeysuckle produces colorful fruit in the fall, it should be removed slowly from an area, as it will push out native shrubs wanting to take root.

For plants with stems 2 inches or larger, begin cutting the branches at shoulder height. You may need to cut these “tip” branches smaller for easy handling or removal. Next, cut the lower “trunks” at ground level and remove the stems. They will sprout again next spring, but will be easily cut back with hand pruners. If you continually remove the regrowth, they will eventually die. This method works when you are removing just a few shrubs. To avoid sprouting altogether, either dig out the stumps by hand or remove with a stump grinder.

If you prefer using herbicides, spray the fresh-cut stumps immediately within 60 seconds following initial cutting with a 10% concentration of glyphosate (Roundup or similar) or an 8% concentration of triclopyr (Brush-Be-Gone or similar). The best time to do this is in fall. Next best time is in winter when temperatures are above freezing.

Plan to replant
Spring is the best time to replant, and September is the next-best time.

Replacing a honeysuckle screen quickly involves selecting the right species, using a larger-size plant, planting in good soil, mulching, and watering regularly. The best native shrubs for screening in part shade or at the edge of the woods include rough-leaved dogwood, hazelnut, bladdernut, and wild hydrangea.

Keep in mind that very few plants grow as densely as bush honeysuckle in heavy shade, so limbing up and thinning canopy trees will improve shrub density and screening potential. Trim canopy trees before installing replacement shrubs. Select the biggest plants you can afford, but keep in mind that small seedlings grow surprisingly fast in good soil.

If your soil is heavy clay or compacted from construction, loosen by digging and turning with a shovel. Then add and till in compost or a combination of good-quality topsoil and compost. Increasing the soil elevation with added topsoil adds some cost, but will increase the height of your screen and improve growth rate when soils are very poor. Add mycorrhizal fungi whenever you plant to improve plant vigor, especially when leaves are slightly yellow. They can be purchased at most garden centers in a powder form, which is mixed in the soil around the planting ball when planting. This really makes a difference in plant health and growth. Mulch 2 to 3 inches deep, and water regularly when it doesn’t rain.

Go slowly with honeysuckle removal. Remove and replace bush honeysuckle a couple at a time, if that suits you, and in a few years you will begin to see results in the most delightful way.

Woodbury is curator of the Whitmire Wildflower Garden at Shaw Nature Reserve and Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Grow Native! Program adviser.

How to Remove Honeysuckle from Your Garden

Honeysuckle can quickly and easily take over your garden if you are not vigilant to control its growth. While lovely and fragrant, this aggressive weed steals nutrients from the soil and prevents your garden from performing at its best. Though honeysuckle is extremely persistent, continued herbicidal treatment and good timing on your part can restore the vigor of your garden and get rid of these troubling pests for good. Follow these simple directions to begin on what may be a long road to get rid of the honeysuckle in your garden.

Step 1 – Clipping Back Honeysuckle

The best time to begin removing your honeysuckle is in the late fall. At this time, the other greenery in your garden will be dying and turning brown, and the honeysuckle should stand out due to its lasting greenery. Put your gardening gloves on and use both your clippers and large gardening shears to cut back the honeysuckle vines at their bases. Pull the cut vines up and away from the garden.

In most cases the vines will wind up and around other plants or bushes near your garden. If this is the situation in your garden, take care to select the correct plants for pruning, as the vines can twist extensively and be difficult to discern from other plants in your garden.

Step 2 – Removing the Roots

Next you will want to being removing the roots. Take your shovel and begin to dig up the root system of the honeysuckle plants. Make sure that you dispose of the roots in a place that will not promote new plants growing.

Step 3 – Kill the Remaining Roots

Once you have a majority of the root system removed, you are going to want to thoroughly spray the holes where you removed the roots with a 30 percent glysophate solution. Once completed, use fresh soil or soil from an uninfected area of your yard to fill in the holes and firmly pat them down.

When preparing and using the herbicide, take precaution not to get it on your skin as it can be extremely irritating. Wear protective clothing and practice caution when using any herbicide solution in your garden. Be sure to properly label the container very noticeably for later use and keep the herbicide out of the reach of any children.

Step 4 – Repeat Treatment

In the spring, you will need to repeat the treatment on the ground where you removed the honeysuckle using the glysophate solution to ensure that all the honeysuckle was killed. Thoroughly spray the area.

Honeysuckle plants are extremely hardy plants and may take more than one growing season to completely eradicate from your garden. If your honeysuckle does not go away with this one treatment in fall and spring, continue on for another growing season, being sure to keep the plant trimmed during the summer and then continuing with the herbicide again in the fall until the entire intrusive vines can be completely removed.

Japanese Honeysuckle Control

Learn more about Japanese Honeysuckle

Effect on Natural Communities

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. It may become established in forested natural areas when openings are created from treefalls or when natural features allow a greater light intensity in the understory. Japanese honeysuckle also may alter understory bird populations in forest communities.

Current Status

Missouri natural communities in the Crowley’s Ridge area have suffered from Japanese honeysuckle invasion. The species is well established at numerous other Missouri sites and will surely be a continuing problem for land managers.

Control Recommendations

Initial effort in areas of heavy and light infestation

Efforts to control Japanese honeysuckle infestations have included the following methods: mowing, grazing, prescribed burning and herbicides. While grazing and mowing reduce the spread of vegetative stems, prescribed burns or a combination of prescribed burns and herbicide spraying appears to be the best way to eradicate this vine.

In fire-adapted communities, spring prescribed burns greatly reduced Japanese honeysuckle coverage and crown volume. Repeated fires reduced honeysuckle by as much as 50 percent over a single burn. A previously burned population of honeysuckle will recover after several years if fire is excluded during this time. By reducing honeysuckle coverage with fire, refined herbicide treatments may be applied, if considered necessary, using less chemical. Because Japanese honeysuckle is semi-evergreen, it will continue to photosynthesize after surrounding deciduous vegetation is dormant. This condition allows managers to detect the amount of infestation, and allows for treatment of the infestation with herbicides without damage to the dormant vegetation.

Glyphosate herbicide (tradename Roundup) is the recommended treatment for this honeysuckle. A 1.5- to 2-percent solution (2 to 2.6 ounces of Roundup/gallon water) applied as a spray to the foliage will effectively eradicate Japanese honeysuckle. The herbicide should be applied after surrounding vegetation has become dormant in autumn but before a hard freeze (25 degrees F). Roundup should be applied carefully by hand sprayer, and spray coverage should be uniform and complete. Do not spray so heavily that the herbicide drips off the target species. Retreatment may be necessary for plants that are missed because of dense growth. Although glyphosate is effective when used during the growing season, use at this time is not recommended in natural communities because of the potential harm to non-target plants. Foliar application of herbicides will be less effective prior to early summer (July 4) because early season shoot elongation will limit the transfer of chemical to the root system. Glyphosate is non-selective, so care should be taken to avoid contacting non-target species. Non-target plants will be important in recolonizing the site after Japanese honeysuckle is controlled. Crossbow, a formulation of triclopyr and 2,4-D, is also a very effective herbicide that controls Japanese honeysuckle. Crossbow should be mixed according to label instructions for foliar application and applied as a foliar spray. It may be applied at dormant periods, like glyphosate, and precautions given above for glyphosate should be followed when using Crossbow. Either herbicide should be applied while backing away from the treated area to avoid walking through the wet herbicide. Garlon 3A and Garlon 4 (triclopyr) are also effective in foliar applications. By law, herbicides may only be applied according to label instructions and by licensed herbicide applicators or operators when working on public properties.

Mechanical cutting of aerial vines, followed by cut-surface herbicide treatment can be effective and minimizes the risk of spray drift. Undiluted Garlon 4 or a 20-percent solution of Roundup should be applied to cut stems immediately following cutting. (Note: some products containing glyphosate or another herbicide may be pre-diluted, so be sure to read product labels to understand herbicide concentration levels).

Maintenance control

In fire-adapted communities, periodic spring burning should control this species.

Failed or Ineffective Practices

Mowing limits the length of Japanese honeysuckle vines, but will increase the number of stems produced.

Grazing may have the same effects as mowing, but is less predictable due to uneven treatment given by browsing animals.

Herbicides that have given poor control results or that are more persistent in the environment than other types are picloram, annitrole, aminotriazole, atrazine, dicamba, dicamba 2,4-D, 2,4-D, DPX 5648, fenac, fenuron, simazine triclopyr.

How to Get Rid of Invasive Honeysuckle

Here’s how to get rid of invasive honeysuckle!

Most avid gardeners in the St. Louis area know that Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera Maackii), is a problematic invasive species. With increased awareness about this problematic pest plant, we’re sharing some of the best ways any property owner can work to get rid of Bush Honeysuckle.

Honeysuckle Removal & Control

Invasive bush honeysuckle can be removed any time of the year in St. Louis. However, we recommend early spring and late fall, because it has leaves when our native shrubs and trees don’t. This also helps to be able to identify these plants, for easier removal. You can work in sections or phases to remove honeysuckle off of your own property or volunteer for a local Honeysuckle Sweep event, with many opportunities available in fall at places like Shaw Nature Reserve, Forest Park, Katy Trail and more. Find an event near you, or check out our Facebook page as we share events! You can also visit the Missouri Botanical Garden’s website here for a list of opportunities.

Once you’ve successfully ID’ed the invasive plant, you can get started on removal with these easy steps!

  1. Hand Pull Small Plants. Small plants can be easily pulled from the ground using just your hands.
  2. Stump and Stem Cutting. Larger plants can be trimmed close to the root, then treated with herbicide.
  3. Dig Roots. Honeysuckle bushes can also be removed by digging out the roots with shovels.

Invasive Bush Honeysuckle

So, while there are several effective methods for removing invasive honeysuckle. Most commonly, removal is performed by cutting the plant stem as close to the ground as possible, then applying an appropriate herbicide to the cut stem. It’s important to keep in mind that any and all stems that are left without a herbicide treatment will quickly resprout. This method is recommended over digging up the entire plant, because digging up large bush honeysuckle plants can cause damage to other plants and increase soil erosion.

Our landscaping team of outdoor experts and gardeners continuously removes invasive honeysuckle from client properties and we are proud of our efforts in providing environmentally conscious landscaping services to homeowners and businesses who don’t have the time or resources to remove extensive amounts of bush honeysuckle from their property on their own.

If you have an area that needs professional help with honeysuckle removal, let us know! We would be happy to help, including providing volunteers for community projects get rid of this invasive pest plant.

What is Honeysuckle and How Do I Control It?

A vigorous grower and climber with tough, wiry stems, this East Asia native is wonderfully fragrant and often used as a groundcover, but it can easily get out of hand. Japanese honeysuckle thrives in sunny locations, but a little shade won’t stop it from growing. While it will tolerate dry, sandy soils, like many plants, it prefers moist soil. It’s common to see Japanese honeysuckle growing along woodland edges and roadsides, and in barren fields.

Young Japanese honeysuckle vines are hairy and reddish in color. As they mature, they become woody, hollow, and up to 2 inches thick. Leaves are dark green on top and lighter green on the bottom, and are oval-shaped. You’ll find them growing across from each other in pairs all along the vine. In the spring, Japanese honeysuckle produces showy, sweet-smelling, tube-shaped flowers. While they start out white, the blooms fade to yellow as they age. Japanese honeysuckle also produces small, round, black berries in the fall.

So how does Japanese honeysuckle spread so quickly? While some of the blame goes to its long above-ground stems, the real culprits are the underground stems (called rhizomes). Together, all of these stems can cause a single Japanese honeysuckle to spread up to 30 feet, covering fences, sheds and other structures, trees, and shrubs. (Of course, honeysuckle can also start from seeds left behind by birds.)

Japanese Honeysuckle
(Lonicera japonica)

Description

Plant Habit. Trailing or climbing vine that forms arbors in forest canopies and dense, sprawling mats on the ground. Vines typically are 6-10 feet long, sometimes up to 30 feet.

Stems. Young stems are reddish to light brown, covered with fine soft hairs. Older stems become tan and fissured, and bark may peel or shred with age. Stems are hollow and woody, and can be up to 2 inches thick.

Leaves. In pairs along stem, oval to oblong, 1 1/2 – 3 1/2 inches long with variable margins (mostly smooth, sometimes lobed). Base is rounded, attached to a short stalk. Tips are round to blunt-pointed. Leaves can be nearly smooth to densely hairy. Top surface is green whereas the underside can appear whitish-green.

Flowers. Blossoms are large, showy and sweet-smelling, colored white, yellow, cream or pinkish, yellowing with age. They are tubular with reflexed lips; 4 fused petals form the upper lip and a single petal forms the lower. Borne in pairs at the leaf axils. Blooms April to June. Flowers open at dusk to allow pollination by diurnal bees and nocturnal moths. Plants rarely bloom in low light.

Fruits/Seeds. Small, round, 1/4 inch fruits appear singly or in pairs in leaf axils. They are purple-black when ripe and contain 2-3 seeds.

Habitat invaded. Colonizes disturbed sites, open woods, woodland edges, forest openings, floodplains, fields, roadsides, barrens and fencerows. Prefers sunny location, but tolerates most light levels. Sensitive to dry conditions but otherwise thrives in sand, silt or clay soils from acid to neutral to basic pH . Severe winter temperatures may restrict its northward spread and low rainfall may limit westward spread.

Reproduction. Seeds are dispersed over long distances by birds. Sprawling vines also can root where they contact the soil, and underground stems (rhizomes) send up new shoots.

Distinctive Features

  • Purple-black berries.
  • Large fragrant flowers borne in pairs in leaf axils.
  • Aggressive, sprawling growth.

Look-alikes

Several native honeysuckles of the Lonicera genus grow as vines, including grape honeysuckle (L. reticulata), yellow honeysuckle (L. flava), hairy honeysuckle (L. hirsuta) and red honeysuckle (L. dioica). They differ from Japanese honeysuckle in their red/orange berries, fused leaves at branch tips, and clusters of many flowers. Invasive Eurasian bush honeysuckles also have red/orange berries.

Life History & Invasive Behavior

Japanese honeysuckle is a woody vine that can overwhelm native flora in forests and other habitats. It is an exceptional competitor due to its potential for widespread seed dispersal, rapid growth rate, extended growing season, broad habitat tolerance and ability to monopolize resources above and below ground. It twines around and over other plants forming dense, tangled thickets under which few plants can survive. Stems wrap tightly around woody plants and can girdle them over time. Native species — when forced to compete with Japanese honeysuckle — have lower leaf nitrogen, decreased photosynthesis and stunted growth. Evidence suggests that this species is allelopathic, meaning it releases chemicals that inhibit the growth of neighboring plants.

Impacts On Forestry & Foresters

On Forestry: Twining vines create dense tangled canopies and mats that compete with native vegetation. The weight of the dense vines can cause trees and shrubs to topple over. It threatens tree regeneration because it can smother seedlings and saplings. Japanese honeysuckle plants can germinate under low light conditions and persist in a suppressed state until the forest canopy opens up from natural disturbance or logging, after which they are “released” to expand rapidly. Evidence suggests allelopathic interference with regeneration of loblolly and shortleaf pine.

On Foresters: Tangled vines may hinder access to the forest and interfere with forestry operations such as reconnaisance. Safety of sawyers felling trees is compromised as trees fall in unpredictable directions due to constraining vines. On-the-ground processing of logs and slash is further inhibited by entangling Japanese honeysuckle.

Method

Timing

Manual / Mechanical

Hand pull/dig seedlings

Spring, summer, fall

Prescribed burning

Spring

Chemical

Foliar application

(glyphosate)

Spring through fall

Combination Treatments

Cut-stem and herbicide application (glyphosate)

Summer, fall, warm winter days

Prescribed burn plus foliar herbicide

Burn in spring or fall, spray after leaves have emerged

Mechanical: For light infestations and seedlings, vines can be pulled or dug out by the roots and removed from the area. It is preferable to do this before the vines have fruited. Fruiting vines should be bagged and landfilled. Cutting the vines without removing the roots or chemically treating the stems will stimulate vigorous regrowth. Soil disturbance will invite germination of seeds in seedbank, thus follow-up scouting and treatment of seedlings may be necessary for a number of years.

Prescribed burns in fire-adapted communities will reduce biomass of dense ground mats and climbing vines, creating optimal conditions for effective follow-up foliar spray with glyphosate (see below). Fire may kill seedlings, but will only temporarily set back older plants.

Chemical: Glyphosate (1.5-2.0% active ingredient) can be applied to foliage from spring through fall. It is most effective after the first killing frost but before the first hard frost in fall. Fall treatment is recommended because non-target plants will be dormant. Monitor treated plants into the second growing season, as plants are known to recover.

The combination method of treating cut stems with herbicides may be unreliable due to the fact that vines often develop roots where they come in contact with the soil. In situations where plants grow off the ground, cut vines just above soil surface and treat stems immediately with glyphosate (20% active ingredient).

NOTICE: Use pesticides wisely. Always read the product label carefully. Follow all mixing and application instructions and wear all recommended protective gear and clothing. Contact your state department of agriculture for any pesticide use requirements, restrictions or recommendations. Many states require individuals involved in the commercial application of pesticides be certified and licensed.

History and Lore

Native to Japan and eastern Asia, Japanese honeysuckle was introduced in the early to mid-1800s for its ornamental and soil stabilizing values. It was also planted by wildlife managers as winter forage for deer. Medicinally, the plant is believed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antiviral properties. The genus Lonicera is named after Adam Lonicer, a 16th century German herbalist, and japonica means of Japan.

Controlling Non-Native Invasive Plants in Ohio Forests: Bush Honeysuckle

Amur, Morrow, and Tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.)

Bush honeysuckles are one of the first plants to green up in the spring and easily dominate this woodland understory. Photo by Kathy Smith, OSU Extension, School of Environment and Natural Resources.

The species known as “bush honeysuckle” are upright deciduous shrubs with long arching branches, are commonly 6 to 20 feet tall, and have shallow root systems. They were first introduced into the United States in the mid to late 1800s from Europe and Asia for use as ornamentals, wildlife food and cover, and erosion control. These non-native plants thrive in full sunlight, but can tolerate moderate shade, and are therefore aggressive invaders of a variety of sites including abandoned fields, roadsides, right-of-ways, woodland edges, and the interiors of open woodlands. Honeysuckle out competes and shades out desirable native woodland species, and can form pure, dense thickets totally void of other vegetation. Reproduction and spread is by both sprouting and seeds, which are disseminated primarily by birds. While honeysuckle fruit is abundant and rich in carbohydrates it lacks the high-fat and nutrient-rich content that most of our native plants provide migrating birds. Wherever invasive honeysuckle shrubs displace our native forest species there is a huge potential impact on these migrating bird populations due to the reduction in availability of native food sources.

The three most common bush honeysuckle species found in Ohio, Tartarian (L. tatarica), Amur (L. maacki), and Morrow (L. morrowi), can be distinguished from each other by characteristics of their leaves and flowers.

Tartarian honeysuckle can hybridize with Morrow resulting in another invasive bush honeysuckle called Bella (L. x bella) or showy fly honeysuckle. This hybrid has characteristics of both parent plants making positive field identification difficult. However, for purposes of control, the non-native bush honeysuckle species can be considered as a group.

Identification

The bush honeysuckles leaf out earlier in the spring and retain their leaves later into the fall than most native trees and shrubs. To identify non-native bush honeysuckle look for a shrub with long arching branches and the following characteristics:

  • Leaves—1 to 3.5 inches long without teeth, short stalked, arranged oppositely along the stem; dark green with abruptly long-pointed tip (Amur); or oval to egg-shaped, consistently hairy on the underside (Morrow), or lacking hair on the underside (Tartarian).
  • Stems—grayish-brown, with short hairs on young stems; older, larger stems have broad ridges and grooves and appear striped; older stems are hollow (native honeysuckle has a solid stem).
  • Flowers—fragrant tubular flowers (less than 1 inch long) appear along the stem in pairs from early to late spring; Amur and Morrow typically have white flowers that turn yellow as they age; Tartarian has pale pink to crimson flowers.
  • Fruits—small (1/4 inch) round berries in clusters of 2 to 15; commonly red, occasionally orange to yellow. Fruit is produced from mid-summer through early fall.
Amur honeysuckle. Photo by Annemarie Smith, ODNR Forestry. Honeysuckle fruit. Photo by Kathy Smith, OSU Extension,
School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Control Methods

When trying to control non-native invasive bush honeysuckle, there are several methods that may be considered. Which method is applied depends on the size of the plants, the size of the infestation, and a landowner’s comfort level with the control method. The bush honeysuckles as a group are shallow rooted plants that leaf out before many of our native plants and lose their leaves after many of our native plants. Both of these characteristics give landowners some flexibility in their choice of control options. For a more detailed description of the methods covered below see OSU Extension’s Controlling Undesirable Trees, Shrubs, and Vines Forestry Fact Sheet F-45 and Herbicides Commonly Used for Controlling Undesirable Trees, Shrubs, and Vines in Your Woodland Forestry Fact Sheet F-45 Supplement-06.

Environmental note: Many of the following herbicides are labeled to be mixed with a penetrating basal oil, diesel fuel, or kerosene as their carrier agent. The choice to utilize a methylated seed oil based basal oil instead of diesel fuel or kerosene will result in a more environmentally friendly practice. However, read the label to ensure using a basal oil is appropriate for the herbicide you have chosen.

Mechanical Control

Tartarian honeysuckle. Photo by Kathy Smith, OSU Extension, School of Environment and Natural Resources.

If only a few small plants are present, they can be pulled, dug, cut, or mowed fairly easily. Pulling or digging of small plants is most effective if done following a rain and fairly easy since the plants are shallow rooted. Cutting and mowing is most effective when initiated in early summer when food reserves are at their lowest. In order to achieve control, pulling or digging must be done so that essentially every root is removed. While this is perhaps impossible, if it is repeated frequently, small honeysuckle shrubs can ultimately be eliminated once food reserves are exhausted. The key to this type of control method is to be vigilant.

Mechanical control alone is usually not a completely effective method of controlling medium to large bush honeysuckle shrubs. Simply cutting the shrub off at the base will cause prolific sprouting and increase the number of stems. An effective strategy for controlling mature bush honeysuckle will deaden both the above ground portion and the root system, which eliminates the potential for sprouting. This can be achieved most effectively through the use of herbicides.

When honeysuckle infestations are so dense that access to the area is limited, landowners may elect to use some mechanical means of removing large plants and a large number of plants. Whether using a skid steer, tractor, or some other piece of equipment to pull the plant out of the ground, realize that some follow-up treatments will be needed. Care needs to be taken that any damage to the residual forest stand is minimal, and a follow-up application of a foliar herbicide should be applied when the remaining honeysuckle roots begin to sprout (see Table 1 for foliar herbicide options). Also, be cautious of the timing of removal. These types of removals may best be done when the ground is frozen or at a minimum when the ground is not wet. Removing vast amounts of plants may result in large areas of disturbed soil and care should be taken to minimize any erosion and compaction potential created when the plants are removed.

Foliar Spraying

Honeysuckle sprouts as a result of cutting off the shrub at the ground. A follow-up foliar herbicide application can now be applied. Photo by Kathy Smith, OSU Extension, School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Foliar spraying is a method of control in which diluted herbicide is sprayed directly on the leaves of the targeted plants. This can be a very effective method of controlling honeysuckle but should only be used when the target plants are within easy reach of the sprayer. Spraying directed at less accessible plants can damage or kill valuable non-target plants through herbicide drift or overspray. In addition, care needs to be taken to ensure that herbicides are sprayed to wet the foliage but not to the point of runoff.

Bush honeysuckle leaves remain green and active late into fall (mid to late October) when most native plant species have gone dormant. Foliar applications of some herbicides can be used at this time with little or no impact to non-target species especially after the first hard frost in the fall. Herbicides recommended for foliar spraying of bush honeysuckle are listed in Table 1.

T​able 1: Herbicides recommended for foliar treatment of bush honeysuckle.
Herbicide Example Brand Names Comments1
glyphosate Roundup, Accord, and other herbicides containing at least 41% glyphosate Apply solution of 2% herbicide in water (vol/vol) when leaves are green; add a surfactant if not in herbicide.
2,4-D + triclopyr Crossbow Wet foliage and stems with 1–1.5 gallons Crossbow in 100 gallons water; spot spray with 0.25 pt (1/2 cup) Crossbow in 3 gallons water.
triclopyr Garlon 3A, Tahoe 3A Apply solution 3–5% (vol/vol) of herbicide in water when leaves are green.*
*A surfactant at .25% vol/vol rate may be added to the various triclopyr formulations when foliar spraying.
1These comments are not intended to be a substitute for the herbicide labels. To ensure the safe and effective use of the herbicides recommended in this publication read the label and SDS (Safety Data Sheet).

Cut Stump Herbicide Treatment

Cut stump treatments are a very effective method for controlling many undesirable woody shrubs and work well on bush honeysuckle. This method involves cutting the shrub off close to the ground and applying an herbicide to the cut surfaces (and sometimes the bark) with a spray bottle, paintbrush, roller, or wicking device.

Whether to use an oil or water soluble herbicide depends on the timing of the herbicide application after the cut. Herbicides carried in water should be applied to the outer 1/3 of the top of the stump within minutes of making the cut.

Utilize an oil soluble herbicide when planning to cut and later return to treat the stumps. Apply the oil soluble herbicide to the entire top and sides of the cut stump but not to the point of excessive runoff. Apply anytime as long as the stumps are dry and not frozen.

Herbicides (both water- and oil-soluble) recommended for cut stump treatments of bush honeysuckle are listed in Table 2. Late summer, early fall, or dormant season applications have all proven to be effective. Avoid applications during sap-flow (spring) as this lessens the effectiveness of the herbicide application.

T​able 2: Herbicides recommended for cut stump treatment of bush honeysuckle.
Herbicide Example Brand Names Comments1
glyphosate Roundup, Accord, and others Apply 20% active ingredient to outer third of cut stem/stump surface immediately after cutting.
2,4-D + picloram Pathway, Tordon RTU Apply undiluted to surface of cut stem immediately after cutting.
Tordon 101 Apply undiluted or diluted 1:1 with water.
2,4-D + triclopyr Crossbow Apply solution of 4% Crossbow in diesel fuel, fuel oil, or kerosene.
triclopyr Garlon 4, Garlon 4 Ultra, Tahoe 4E, Remedy, and others Apply 20% Garlon 4 + 10% penetrate (e.g. Cide-Kick II) in diesel, fuel oil, kerosene, or basal oil (penetrate not needed with basal oil).
1These comments are not intended to be a substitute for the herbicide labels. To ensure the safe and effective use of the herbicides recommended in this publication read the label and SDS (Safety Data Sheet).

Basal Spraying

A basal application of herbicide needs to be made to the lower 12–18 inches of the honeysuckles’ stems. Photo by Kathy Smith, OSU Extension, School of Environment and Natural Resources.

A basal application for bush honeysuckle refers to the spraying of a labeled herbicide mixed with an oil-based carrier on the lower 12–18 inches of the stem. The herbicide is sprayed, ensuring that the stems are wet but not to the point of runoff. Basal treatments should only be applied when the areas to be treated are dry and not frozen. The basal treatments recommended in Table 3 should be applied during the dormant season (winter or spring). Due to the arching nature of bush honeysuckle shrubs, access to the lower portion of the shrubs trunk is not always easy to achieve. Care should be taken to ensure that the chemical being applied is reaching the lower portion of the shrub’s trunk and not merely being applied in its general vicinity.

Table 3: Herbicides recommended for basal spraying of bush honeysuckle.
Herbicide Example Brand Names Comments1
triclopyr + imazapyr Garlon 4 and Stalker Apply a solution of 15% Garlon 4 + 3% Stalker + 82% Ax-It basal oil mixed by volume.
triclopyr Garlon 4, Garlon 4 Ultra Apply a solution of 20% Garlon 4 in basal oil (Ax-It or Arborchem). Diesel fuel may also be used as a carrier but this requires that a 10% penetrant (such as Cide-Kick II) must also be added.
2,4-D + triclopyr Crossbow Apply a 4% solution of Crossbow in diesel oil, fuel oil, or kerosene.
1These comments are not intended to be a substitute for the herbicide labels. To ensure the safe and effective use of the herbicides recommended in this publication read the label and SDS (Safety Data Sheet).

Summary and Disclaimer

Label recommendations must be followed to maximize the potential for successful control. Just as important as the initial work is the follow up. Several of the treatments detailed in this fact sheet take time to completely deaden bush honeysuckle. Monitor treated plants for at least one year to determine if complete control is achieved. Any plants that re-sprout or are not completely killed by the first treatment will warrant a follow up treatment.

Herbicides, like all pesticides, are registered and approved (labeled) for specific uses by the Environmental Protection Agency. Approved uses and application methods are listed and described on the pesticide’s label. The herbicides listed in this fact sheet were appropriately labeled at the time of publication. Because pesticide labeling may change at any time, you should verify that a particular herbicide is still labeled for your intended use. At the time of publication, copies of most herbicide labels and SDS could be obtained online at the Crop Data Management System web site (cdms.net/Label-Database). Others are available through the individual manufacturer’s website.

Amur Honeysuckle

Identification and Removal

Amur Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) is native to eastern Asia and was introduced into North America in 1896. Planted originally for ornamental use, and later as a wildlife cover and for soil erosion control. North America soon learned just how detrimental this invasive species is.

We have provided the following information about Amur Honeysuckle:

  • How to Identify Amur Honeysuckle

  • Amur Honeysuckle Habitat Characteristics

  • The Distribution of Amur Honeysuckle within the United States

  • The Ecological Impacts of Amur Honeysuckle

  • Amur Honeysuckle Removal and Control Methods

Honeysuckle Fact Sheet | Controlling Non-Native Invasive Plants in Ohio Forests: Bush Honeysuckle

By Ohio State University Extension and Ohio Department of Natural Resources

How to Identify Amur Honeysuckle

Amur Honeysuckle is a multi-stemmed erect deciduous shrub with arching branches that grows up to 30 feet tall.

Stems: Hollow with stringy tan bark.

Leaves: Opposite, simple, and ovate. They are 2 to 3 inches long, green on the top surface, pale and slightly fuzzy on the bottom.

Flowers: White to yellow, tubular in shape, 3/4 to 1 inch in length, and the petals are very thin. They bloom in the late spring, and are very fragrant.

Fruits: Small (1/4 inch in diameter) red berries that appears in late summer and typically persist to winter. The berries are also mildly toxic if eaten in multitude, especially by children.

Habitat

Amur Honeysuckle is native to eastern Asia, but can grow in a wide range of soil types. It tolerates wet soils for brief periods of time, such as at the edge of streams and creek banks that occasionally overflow. It can grow in full sun or full shade and can be found in fence-rows, thickets, woodlands, roadsides, pastures, old fields, neglected areas and lawns. It tolerates all types of pollution, and thrives on neglect. It also tolerates severe summer droughts and cold winter temperatures with minimal die-back.

Distribution within the United States

Amur Honeysuckle has spread throughout the Eastern and Midwestern United States as indicated by the shaded states on the map.

Ecological Impacts

In forests the plant can negatively affect populations of native members of the community.Honeysuckles as a group are shallow rooted plants that leaf out earlier than and lose their leaves after many of our native plants. Spread of seeds happens rapidly due to distribution by birds and mammals. It can form a dense under-story thicket which can restrict native plant growth and tree seedling establishment.

It has also becomes a popular nesting area for bird species, which negatively affects their populations as well. Predators (snakes,cats,rats, etc.) that normally had little to no access to the nests located high up in the canopy are now able to reach the nests as they are located in a sub-canopy shrub.

Removal and Control Methods

When trying to control non-native invasive honeysuckle, there are several methods that may be considered. Which method is applied depends on the size of the plants, the size of the infestation, and a landowner’s comfort level with the control method.

Mechanical Methods

Cutting and mowing is most effective when food reserves are at their lowest in the early summer. Pulling or digging must be done to removal all roots. If this process is repeated multiple times, small honeysuckle shrubs can be eliminated once food reserves are depleted.

Seedlings and Small Shrubs:

Can be pulled, dug, cut, or mowed fairly easily. Pulling or digging of small plants is most effective after rain since the plant has shallow rooted.

Large Shrubs:

Mechanical control by itself will not be an effective controlling medium to large honeysuckle shrubs. Simply cutting the shrub off at the base will cause prolific sprouting and increase the number of stems. The most effective strategy for controlling mature bush honeysuckle is using herbicides. An effective herbicide will kill both the stem and the root system, thus eliminating the potential for sprouting.

Numerous Shrubs:

These types of removals are best when the ground is frozen and NOT wet. Dense and/ or numerous shrubs may reduce access to the area. Use of a skid steer or tractor as means of removing large shrubs and/ or numerous shrubs from the work best. Once removed from the ground a follow- up treatment will need to be applied. A foliar herbicide should be applied when the remaining honeysuckle roots begin to sprout.

Damage to the land or forest around should be minimal and handled with care. Removing vast amounts of plants may result in large areas of disturbed soil and care should be taken to minimize any erosion and compaction potentially created when the plants are removed.

Chemical Methods (Herbicides)

Foliar Spraying:

A method of control in which diluted herbicide is sprayed directly on the leaves of the targeted plants, wetting the foliage, but not to the point of runoff. This is a very effective Amur Honeysuckle control method. However, spraying directed at less accessible plants can damage or kill non-target plants through herbicide drift or over-spray.

Stump Cutting:

Cutting the stump and applying herbicide is a very effective removal and control method. This involves cutting the shrub off close to the ground and applying a herbicide to the cut surfaces and bark with a spray bottle, paintbrush or paint roller.

This method has proven to be a very popular method, it is the same method we use at all of our BEST honeysuckle removal volunteer events. One of the questions we get the most is what chemicals do we use to treat the stumps. Our method is as followed,

For specific questions on what “recipe” of chemical to use, refer to the two documents in the lower left of this web page, one from the Cincinnati Nature Center and one from Butler SWCD.

Basal Spraying:

Refers to spraying a labeled herbicide mixed with an oil-based carrier on the lower 12–18 inches portion of the shrubs trunk. This mixture is sprayed to ensure that the trunk portion is wet, but not to the point of runoff to other possible non- target plants nearby. This treatment should only occur when the area that the plant is located is dry and NOT frozen.

Brush Removal Cost Share Program

For more information please check out the “Environmental Quality Incentives Program – Forestry (EQIP Forestry)” section on this page.

Resources Used:

Ohio Division of Forestry on Amur Honeysuckle

Ohio Environmental Council on Amur Honeysuckle

Ohio State University Extension on Controlling Non-Native Invasive Plants

USDA Forest Service on Amur Honeysuckle

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