The Amur Honeysuckle Tree is a fast growing, flowering shrub that has become invasive and established in roughly half of the United States and Canada. Growing upwards 25-30′ tall by 20′ wide with a thick canopy, it is highly adaptable to temperate climates. Once established this invasive species reeks havoc on any North American Ecosystem.
Originally from Eastern Asia, in the late 1800’s Amur Honeysuckle Tree was brought to the United States for use as an ornamental. It took little time to escape gardens and spread into the wild, shading and out-competing native species. It’s exceptionally fast growth rate and long leaf-bearing period smothers native seedlings in shade, killing them and leaving them to deer predation.
Bush Honeysuckle Facts
- Highly Invasive plant in North America
- Listed as noxious weed and is illegal to plant in several states
- Out-competes almost every other plant for sunlight, forming a near impenetrable canopy of shade
- Has been documented to negatively effect the growth/reproductive potential of many native species, such as Yellow Jewelweed
- Is hardy from USDA zones 3-8
- Was introduced for erosion control and as an ornamental in the late 1800’s
- Keeps its leaves from April-November in USDA zone 6/7
- Amur Honeysuckle has been found to be sensitive to Juglone, which is secreted by Black Walnut Trees
Amur Honeysuckle Scientific Name
Lonicera maackii is the scientific name of Amur Honeysuckle
Identification of Amur Honeysuckle
We have a simple ID guide that can help you quickly ID this plant in the field. Click on the image below to go to the file.
The overall shape of a mature plant is like a multi-trunk umbrella. The trunk will rise, but the branches will arc down under the weight of the wood/leaves and to get maximum sunlight.
Trunk / Stem
The trunks of this plant can be single or multi-trunked. There will be many branches, and at maturity those branches will produce branches. So you have trunk to branch to branch to branch too – ahhh! The branches of Amur Honeysuckle are hollow.
These branches are FAST growing. If you break off most of a branch, but leave some left, it can grow a new 3′ long branch in six weeks. The growth rate is crazy.
The bark has veins/ridges that run parallel to the trunk. The bark is flat and scaled, and may be peeling on larger diameter trunks. Young bark is more smooth.
The branches that hold leaves will be hollow in the middle. There are native honeysuckles, but they do not have hollow stems. So you can use this information to better confirm identification.
The leaves can be about 3″ long, and shaped like a long tear-drop. They are opposite and will be in a perfect symmetrical pattern along most of the stem.
However, if you are trying to identify this plant in the Spring, you can tell it is Bush Honeysuckle by a few characteristics. Bush Honeysuckle will leaf out before almost any other species. That, along with hollow stems is almost enough to identify it. I snapped a few pictures to help with the leaf identification in early Spring. Below are a few photos I took of Bush Honeysuckle leaves in Spring, during their emergence from winter dormancy. I hope you find it helpful!
The flower of Amur Honeysuckle are tubular and approximately 1″ long. There will be several flowers at the junction of leaves. They will first be white and then become yellow. Eventually they fall off, and a small cluster of 1-4 berries will form. The berries are somewhat poisonous to humans and should not be consumed.
Amur Honeysuckle Berries
The berries of Amur Honeysuckle are poisonous to humans. Eating them can cause rapid heartbeat, vomiting, diarrhea and should not be consumed.
The roots are taproots that will be reddish orange in color. They spread out from a central root that is generally white.
The Ecological Impact of Amur Honeysuckle
Amur Honeysuckle is extremely invasive and agressive. This plant can rapidly colonize disturbed areas, creating a thick canopy that will block out the sun for any other native plants.
Our feathered friends and other mammals will consume the berries, and spread them in their fecal matter far and wide as they roam.
Amur Honeysuckle can form single monocultures, meaning no other trees/shrubs/plants will be present. Garlic Mustard (another invasive species) is about the only other plant I’ve seen that can grow underneath it. In fact, if Garlic Mustard is also present you can almost have a situation where the land is nearly 100% covered with non-native plants.
Amur Honeysuckle will out-grow and out compete almost all native plants. Therefore I’ve been battling this plant for several years since relocating, and I still have years worth of plants that I need to kill.
It holds leaves longer than any other plant
That is one of the biggest problems with this plant. Amur Honeysuckle trees will leaf out before any other plant/tree in the Spring, creating it’s sunlight-stealing canopy. So this plant prevents woodland ephemeral plants from getting any sunlight, such as Virginia Blue Bells, Spring Beauty, or Wild Violets. These woodland wildflowers bloom so early because that is the only time they receive sunlight, before the native trees leaf out. So these shade perennial wildflowers miss their short window of sunlight because of this invasive thug.
Bush Honeysuckle is allelopathic, meaning that it’s roots secrete a chemical that will harm or inhibit growth of other plants. Native species such as Hairy Wood Mint have been found to be negatively effected by the presence of Bush Honeysuckle. There are likely many other species effected but yet to be studied. 
This plant can grow in full sun or full shade. It can tolerate wet conditions, such as along stream banks or ponds. Also, it can tolerate drought conditions. And finally, it can grow in fertile loam, clay, almost anywhere.
Don’t maintain it – kill it.
How to Establish
Don’t grow this plant.
The flowers are pollinated by bees and hummingbirds. Being able to draw hummingbirds is about the only positive thing I can say about this plant. I have often seen deer browse the foliage, but apparently it doesn’t taste that good to them because they never completely defoliate the plant (like the often do with saplings of oak, apple, maple).
Pests and diseases
I have never seen any stress from disease on this plant. It just seems to power through and thrive anywhere it can steal a bit of sunlight.
How to Control and get rid of Amur Honeysuckle Trees
Control for young Amur Honeysuckle Treesaplings
Young saplings that are only 3′ tall (1 m) or less can be pulled out of the ground if the soil is moist. Loosening the soil a bit with a shovel or digging bar also helps. That is the easiest and quickest way to stop or stall an infestation. The method for mature plants will also work, but pulling is much less harmful.
Control for mature, full grown Amur Honeysuckle
You should really just go to our guide that details the best way to kill mature stands of Bush Honeysuckle.
I’ve seen other references that suggest using Glyphosate (round up) to control Amur Honeysuckle. With all the recent news linking too much Glyphosate to cancer, I will give you an alternative that is effective and doesn’t involve spraying.
To kill a mature Amur Honeysuckle Tree, what I do is cut it off at the base and apply brush killer. Depending on the size, this could involve removing many branches, brush clearing, etc. But once you get to the main trunk, you just cut it off as low as you can. I have used chain saws or hand saws for this. The result is the same, but one just requires a bit more effort.
Apply Brush Killer
Once you have the bare trunk, apply concentrate brush killer directly to the trunk. Do this within 30 minutes of cutting it so that the chemical is most effective. The product I use is called BioAdvanced Brush Killer. It is usually on sale at Amazon for less than $20, you can find a direct link on our recommended products page.
Depending on how quick you apply the brush killer concentrate, as well as the size of the plant you may have to recut and reapply in the Spring. But this stuff works. Below are some pics of stumps I killed the previous Spring.
I made a short youtube video on how I do this that you can watch below (it’s less than 90 seconds).
Amur Honeysuckle Quick Reference Table
|Amur Honeysuckle Reference Table|
|Common Name||Amur Honeysuckle, Japanese Bush Honeysuckle|
|Scientific name||Lonicera maackii|
|Bloom Time||Early Summer|
|Bloom Size||½” flowers along the leaf producing branches|
|Characteristics||A single flower at each apex of leaves|
|Height||15-30’ (5-10 m)|
|Spacing/Spread||15-20’ (5-7 m)|
|Light Requirements||Full sun to full shade|
|Soil Types||Almost any soil type|
|Moisture||Moist, Medium, Dry|
|Maintenance||Don’t maintain it – kill it|
|Typical Use||Driving me insane. Killing off all native plants underneath it|
|Fauna Associations||Deer will browse the foliage, but not enough to kill it. Birds eat the berries and then spread the seeds everywhere|
|Larval Host||None – it isn’t native to North America|
|Sowing Depth||Don’t sow them|
|Stratification||Boil seeds for 30 minutes. They should be dead after that|
|Hardiness Range||USDA Zones 3-8|
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 – – Bauer, Jonathan T., et al. “Context dependency of the allelopathic effects of Lonicera maackii on seed germination.” Plant Ecology 213.12 (2012): 1907-1916.
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