by Grace Fear, Open Space Council Intern
Asian bush honeysuckle plants can be found throughout forests in Missouri. While they can look like an attractive plant with their flowers and bright red berries, this plant is invasive and in actuality does not provide adequate food and habitat for birds, shades out native understory, and spreads rapidly throughout forests, making it one of the more invasive species throughout the midwest and northeast portions of the United States.
Invasive honeysuckle originated in Europe and Asia and was originally used in the U.S. for landscaping. When invasive species encroach upon native species, they often have fewer natural enemies than they would in their native region, and they end up destroying native ecosystems by appropriating their light, nutrients, and moisture.
Missouri does have native honeysuckle species. Grape, yellow, and limber honeysuckle are all great options to consider planting. If you are unsure how to know if the honeysuckle you are looking at is native or invasive, there are a few ways to tell:
Invasive Asian bush honeysuckle can be easily identified in early spring or late fall, as they bloom earlier and lose leaves later than most native species. The invasive shrubs can be between 3 and 15 feet tall, extremely dense, and have pairs of red or orange berries near the base of their leaves in the fall. Invasive honeysuckle has fragrant flowers that are often white, but can develop a pink or yellow tint as the plant ages.
The biggest difference is that native honeysuckle species resemble vines more than shrubs. Invasive species also have white flowers, especially in younger plants, while native species’ flowers lean towards green and yellow shades. If you are unsure whether your honeysuckle is native or invasive, you can learn more with the online resources at the end of this article. Here are examples of the Asian bush honeysuckle’s leaves, berries, bark, and trunk:
If you are interested in volunteering to remove invasive species from our open spaces, you can sign up for the Open Space Council’s Operation Wild Lands events to help us remove bush honeysuckle in different areas of the region. This program is a great way to make a positive change in your community and environment, as well as an opportunity to learn the basics of removing bush honeysuckle. You can also find more information on invasive plants at the resources here: