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Honeysuckle seen around town may be an invasive species

People can walk through just about anywhere in Louisville and come across honeysuckle growing on a bush. It smells good, but it actually doesn’t belong there.
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 10:37 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - People can walk through just about anywhere in Louisville and come across honeysuckle growing on a bush. It smells good, but it actually doesn’t belong there.

“We’ve got more honeysuckle there,” Marybeth Orton said, pointing towards a bush in her backyard. “Last year, we could see over the fence.”

Orton owns a business in the Highlands. She said her backyard is overrun with bush honeysuckle.

“I have a little crabapple tree bush underneath there,” Orton said. “You could see that, I could see the blossoms last year, but this has come on with a vengeance this year.”

That’s exactly what this invasive species does.

Wayne Long, University of Kentucky cooperative extension service agent for Jefferson County, said honeysuckle is very good at taking over whatever it comes in contact with.

“The plants that are underneath are struggling for moisture, for nutrients, for sun,” Long said. “The really interesting thing is both species, the roots produce chemicals that inhibit other plants from growing in that soil.”

There are actually two different kinds that can be found in Louisville.

There is the large bush species. It’s the only kind of bush honeysuckle in the area. If it’s around, get rid of it.

There’s also a vine species. There are several different kinds of vines, but the invasive species can be identified by the bright green leaves that show up in pairs on either side of a purple vine.

The plants have been here for about 150 years, originally brought over from Asia to help with erosion and as a natural barrier, like a hedge. They started to get out of control in the 60s and 70s and now the plants are across the entire United States.

So, what’s the solution?

Long said if it’s small enough, the whole thing can be ripped out of the ground. But every single bit of the root needs to be pulled out, or it will definitely come back.

If that’s not a real option, it’s time for chemicals.

Look for Roundup with glyphosate. It’s a herbicide in many weed and grass killing products used to control broadleaf weeds and grasses.

Long said to put the product right on the stump after cutting as much as possible.

“It will translocate it to the root and possibly kill what’s left,” Long said. “It will eliminate some of those stump sprouts if you will.”

Honeysuckle can spread millions of seeds every year. They do not need bees or other pollinators to help them out either.

As lovely as the blooms can be, they shouldn’t take over a person’s yard.

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