(Lonicera japonica Thunberg)
How did it get here?
to eastern Asia, Japanese honeysuckle was brought to Long
Island, N.Y., as an ornamental in 1806. A more aggressive
variety was imported to Flushing, N.Y., in 1862. Initially
slow to escape cultivation, this vine was established
from Connecticut to Florida by 1918.
It is now considered naturalized throughout the eastern
and central United States. It has also invaded Hong Kong,
England, Wales, Portugal, Corsica, Hawaii, Brazil, and
How to spot
japonica is a trailing or twining woody vine that
is evergreen in most of North Carolina. Vines can reach
30 feet in length. Leaves alternate along the stem and
are ovate (young ones may be lobed) and about 1 1/2 to
3 inches long.
plants have hairy stems while older ones have smooth,
peeling bark. Very fragrant white flowers that fade to
yellow are borne in pairs from April through June. Seeds
are black berries, produced August through October.
• Sun to partial shade.
• Grows most vigorously on rich, moist soil, but
• Common in disturbed areas such as roadsides, trails,
fencerows, and abandoned fields.
Honeysuckle reproduces by seeds, underground
rhizomes, and aboveground runners.
Look-alikes and how to distinguish
• Coral or trumpet honeysuckle (L.
sempervirens L.)—leaves joined together around
stem (connate); red/orange berries; scarlet red flowers.
• Wild or limber honeysuckle* (L. dioica L.)—leaves
joined together around the stem (connate); red/orange
berries; pale yellow, orange, or purplish flowers.
• Yellow honeysuckle** (L. flava)–red/orange
berries; yellowish to pale-orange flowers.
* rare in North Carolina mountains,
endangered in Illinois, Kentucky and Maine, and of special
concern in Tennessee.
** rare and local in North Carolina Mountains, endangered
in Illinois, of special concern in Tennessee, and extirpated
Why is this plant a problem?
honeysuckle invades native plant communities following
natural or human-induced disturbances such as floods,
ice and windstorms; the building of logging roads; or
outbreaks of disease.
It grows densely both vertically and horizontally,
smothering and shading out native plants and depleting
the soil of moisture and nutrients. It disfigures the
trunks of trees and topples upright vegetation under the
weight of its vines. It can bring down a 13-foot tree
in the span of a summer.
• Hand-pull vines in small areas or
grub with a shovel or hoe. Bag and discard debris to prevent
• Be vigilant about identifying vines, and control
infestations early. It requires about two years to become
established, often going unnoticed until it has taken
• Mow old fields and roadsides twice yearly to slow
spread. But be aware that this will increase stem density.
• Apply herbicides on larger patches. Call your
county extension agent or click
here for recommendations. Exercise care with the timing
Alternative, native ornamentals
The intoxicating fragrance of Japanese honeysuckle makes
it hard for some gardeners and landscapers to shun this
vine. But it invades and engulfs treasured plants and
trees in landscapes just as it does natural areas, and
most people come to regret inviting it.
The honeysuckles and other alternative vines recommended
here have arguably better ornamental and wildlife value.
Coral honeysuckle and showy trumpet creeper in particular
are hummingbird magnets.
Coral honeysuckle (L. sempervirens L)
Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans)
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
NOTE: Cultivated varieties of some of the rare honeysuckles
under “Look-alikes” are becoming selectively
available at plant nurseries and online retailers.
Wild ginger (Asarum canadensis)
Conservancy Element Stewardship Abstract
A wealth of information about biology and control
Natural Resources Conservation Service
National plant database
Department of Conservation and Recreation, Natural Heritage