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Honeysuckle: A sweet sounding name with a not so sweet impact

Bush Honeysuckle is a non-native large deciduous shrub species from Asia. like many other invasive species it has no native control to keep it in check. It is one of the first plants to leaf out in the spring and one of the last to keep its leaves in the fall. The species grows and spreads fast. It forms a dense colony that takes over the under story of Iowa’s and other surrounding states woodlands. The most likely reason why this bush was brought to the United States is that it produces very pretty, fragrant, large white- and cream-colored blossoms in the spring. In the fall you can find many red berries on the plant that birds and mammals love to eat due to it’s high amount of carbohydrates. This is the primary way that the honeysuckle spreads throughout the woodland understory. Although animals love the berries they lack fat and nutrient content that our native berries produce.


I have used multiple ways to remove this species this fall some of which I have never used before so it is sort of an experiment to see if they work well. The three primary methods I used this fall include mechanical removal, foliar spray, and basal bark treatment.


Mechanical removal: Mechanical removal includes physically removing the plants from the ground. I chose this method in a few spots because honeysuckle has a shallow root system and is fairly easy to pull out of the ground when it is young. This is a very good control method for this plant but it takes quite a bit of physical labor. Time will tell but, I think because of the disturbance to the soil of the forest floor, I could have made it easy for other invasive species such as garlic mustard to take a foothold even easier in the future.


Foliar spray: Foliar spraying is when a chemical is sprayed from a sprayer directly on the leaves of the plant. The plant then absorbs the chemical down into its roots and is killed. I chose this method, because as stated earlier it is one of the last plants to keep its leaves on in the fall so mostly all other native species had already lost their leaves and went dormant. I used Glyphosate (AKA Round-up) which is a non-target species (it kills almost anything) because I had very dense patches of honeysuckle with almost no plants growing underneath of them so if there was overspray to those species it would have little to no impact.


Basal bark: Basal bark method is where chemical herbicide is sprayed on the bottom 12-18 inches of the stem from the ground level. This method is an easy method to use, but can use more chemical because you need to cover the entire stem for that entire area.


Future control methods: Some future control methods I plan on using include these three methods while also including woodland burning every few years to set back these invasive plants. Future public volunteer work days may be used to further help keep the honey suckle problem at bay.

For more information on honeysuckle you can visit here to watch a short video:

If you would like more information on this subject and the work being done at Gilbertson Conservation Area please contact Isaac at

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