Lonicera maackii (Amur Honeysuckle)
|Also known as:||Bush Honeysuckle|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; disturbed soil; fields, fence rows, forests, woodland edges, thickets, landscape plantings|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||6 to 16 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Pairs of irregular flowers arising from leaf axils all along first year branches. Flowers are white, ¾ to 1 inch long, with a slender tube and 2 lips, the upper lip with 4 erect lobes that become spreading with age, the lower lip reflexed down, narrower and longer than the upper, and both longer than the floral tube. Outer surfaces are hairy, especially the tube. Protruding from the tube are 5 long, yellow-tipped stamens and a long, slender, white style with a green, dome-shaped stigma at the tip.
The floral tube is about half as long as the lower lip and slightly swollen on one side. At the base of the tube is a green, egg-shaped ovary with 5 small, triangular lobes at the tip. The pairs of flowers are stalkless or nearly so. Flowers turn dull, pale yellow as they wither.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are opposite, 1½ to 3½ inches long, up to about 1½ inches wide, lance-elliptic, mostly widest at or below the middle, tapering to a pointed tip, rounded or tapering at the base with a short, hairy stalk. Edges are toothless and have a fringe of fine hairs.
The upper surface is hairless to finely hairy, the lower hairy at least on the veins. Twigs are green to reddish, finely hairy, and hollow with a brown pith. Older bark is brown to gray and often peeling in strips. Stems are many-branched and may take the form of a multi-stemmed shrub or small, spreading tree.
Amur Honeysuckle is a new arrival to Minnesota, the fourth exotic invasive Honeysuckle to grace our landscape. We first encountered it on an old homestead that is now part of Pine Bend SNA in Dakota County, but it's since been cut down. Chances are there is more of it there. Amur Honeysuckle has been called the most aggressive Honeysuckle in Illinois and is a prohibited/restricted species in Wisconsin. It is generally larger than the other species and can take the form of a large shrub or small tree, but the key distinguishing characteristics are the flowers and fruits that are stalkless or nearly so, leaves that consistently taper to a pointed tip (acuminate), and the hairy leaves and new stems. By comparison, Morrow's Honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii) and Showy Honeysuckle (Lonicera ×bella) also have hairy leaves and stems, but flowers and fruits are at the end of a long stalk and leaves are blunt or pointed at the tip and not much tapering. Tatarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) is like Morrow's Honeysuckle but is hairless, and both it and Showy Honeysuckle usually have pink flowers where Amur Honeysuckle and Morrow's Honeysuckle have white flowers.
All of these exotic Honeysuckles are problematic in natural areas. They can create dense thickets, they leaf out early and stay leafed out later than most other shrubs, all of which robs sunlight, moisture and nutrients from other plants in the understory. Birds eat the fruits and easily spread the seeds to new locations. The exotics are fairly easy to distinguish from the MN native Lonicera species: most natives are vines not shrubs, the native shrubs do not have the vigor or stature of the exotics, nor do they have pink or white flowers, and the twigs are solid where the exotics are hollow.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Amur Honeysuckle as a small, spreading tree
- Amur Honeysuckle shrub
- more leaves
- flowering branches
- exotic Honeysuckles have hollow twigs with brown pith
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Dakota County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dakoka County and in Illinois.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?