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The first horticultural herald of spring is invasive bush honeysuckle – alas!

As the first woody plant to leaf out, it’s so easy to spot that we encourage people just becoming familiar with it to look around their neighborhoods and see just how pervasive this incredibly noxious plant is.

When you realize that it’s taking over whole parks, schoolyards and streetscapes, you’ll understand the need to step up the battle against this scourge.

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Why, you might ask? Because this invasive plant wants to rule the world. It will outcompete desirable native species in most ecosystems; choke out all native wildflowers; starve songbirds and butterflies; erode creek banks; increase mosquito populations while reducing the frog population that eats them; close nature trails; and bring in more deer, deer ticks and tick-borne diseases.

Most everyone knows about the vining Japanese honeysuckle and how hard it is to remove, but the Amur and Morrow’s bush honeysuckles (Lonicera maackii and L. morrowii) are causing much more immediate and severe environmental harm – and there’s no excuse for allowing these nasty invasives to remain on your property.

Drive down virtually any street in Ladue, and you can spot bush honeysuckle on many residential properties. Concerted efforts have been made to remove it from Rodes Park and the Deer Creek watershed.

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Unfortunately, volunteer efforts have been severely hampered by private property owners who ignore the environmental need to get rid of these species. By leaving stands of mature, fruiting honeysuckle, they’re effectively providing seeds that birds transport onto previously cleared land. So join the committed many in helping educate your neighbors and encouraging them to use these steps eradicate bush honeysuckle in Ladue now:

  • Buy a roll of bright, plastic tagging tape at the hardware store.
  • Review plant identification resources to confirm ID. One easy clue is, when cutting a large stem between the nodes, bush honeysuckle varieties will be hollow. If you’re still unsure about correct identification, you can email close-up and whole plant photos to the Missouri Botanical Garden Kemper Center team for confirmation at plantinformation@mobot.org.
  • Walk your property during the early leaf-out phase, and tag all plants for removal.
  • Measure the scope of infestation, choose an eradication method and make a plan.
  • If there’s a lot of it, consider hiring a contractor or teaming with neighbors.
  • If there’s little enough to do yourself, break the property into smaller zones, and spread the work out over a few weeks.
  • If there are just seedlings on your property, choose a pleasant day when soils are moist, making the seedlings easy to pull out by hand.
  • Aim for total eradication because even one mature plant left behind can reinfest quickly.
  • Visit all reclaimed garden areas in the early spring and late fall each year to catch new plants while they’re still young and easy to pull.
  • Help to educate your neighbors, churches and schools by sharing the list of resources in this article.
  • Become an active volunteer “honeysuckle hacker” for your church, school or neighborhood.
  • Once your property’s clear, make a replanting plan that includes bird-friendly trees, shrubs and perennials. Pat yourself on the back for doing your part for your community, public health, biodiversity, visiting songbirds and the whole environment. Also, congratulate your neighbors when they’ve done the same – and keep after those neighbors who don’t yet understand the severity of the issue. 

Courses to Take, Resources to Note

  • Learn about environmental impacts by visiting mobot.org.
  • Download and print copies of the brochure Got Honeysuckle? from mobot.org/invasives.
  • Find out more about bush honeysuckle control methods at mdc.mo.gov.
  • Take part in the “How to Stop Invasive Superweeds” class being offered by Missouri State Parks on Saturday, Feb. 22, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Montgomery City Public Library. Call 573-564-3476 or visit mostateparks.com to register. Space is limited.