Common Name: Amur honeysuckle
Scientific name: Lonicera maackii
Identification: Amur honeysuckle is a large often multi-stemmed perennial shrub that grows up to 15’ tall and can be as broad as it is tall. The branches have an arching form and have light brown bark, which is often shaggy and peeling in vertical strips on older plants. The mature stems of invasive bush honeysuckles have hollow centers (pith is absent). The leaves are opposite each other, dark green on the top surface, lighter green on the bottom, and are 2-3” long and ½ – 1½” wide. The leaves have smooth edges and are rounded at the base and taper to a pointed tip. White, tubular flowers 1” in length grow in pairs at the leaf axils in spring. The flowers turn yellow soon after blooming. Fruits are about ¼” diameter, spherical, and ripen from green to red. Fruits form at the leaf axils and can remain on the plants into late fall and sometimes into winter. Both flowers and fruit are borne on very short stems (1/16 – 1/8”), giving the appearance of clasping the twigs. (Dirr 1998, Hilty 2017)
Look-alikes: Its relatively large size, the tapered tips of its leaves, and the flowers and fruit on very short stems differentiate Amur honeysuckle from the other invasive bush honeysuckles (see L. morrowii, L. tatarica, and L. x bella). There are some shrubs in the Lonicera genus that are native to the Great Lakes region, but most are much smaller plants than Amur honeysuckle. L. canadensis, L. oblongifolia and L. villosa are all less than 6’ tall at maturity with oval-shaped leaves that lack pointed tips. L. involucrata can grow up to 10’ tall and has pointed leaves, but its leaves are hairy on the underside while the leaves of Amur honeysuckle have hair only along the veins. Diervilla lonicera, a native plant with the common name bush honeysuckle, has opposite leaves that are a similar shape to Amur honeysuckle’s, but is a much smaller shrub (less than 5’), and the leaves are toothed.
Amur honeysuckle has been reported as occurring throughout most of Great Lakes region. It is most commonly reported in the Chicago region, in southwest Michigan, and in the Cleveland area. It has been reported only in isolated instances in in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is absent in Minnesota. This species is common throughout most of the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic U.S. The USDA Plants database describes Amur honeysuckle as being hardy to -33oF (Zone 3b), so it could potentially establish in most areas of the Great Lakes Basin.
Additional invasive species distribution data for specific Great Lakes jurisdictions is available via:
The seeds of Amur honeysuckle are spread by birds (Bartuszevige and Gorchov 2006) and mammals, including white-tailed deer (Guiden et al. 2015). It is also possible that seeds are spread along riparian corridors through movement in water (McNeish and McEwan 2016).
Amur honeysuckle’s wide adaptability to shade and to a variety of soils enables it to invade many different habitats. It can be found in savannahs, open woodlands, forest edges, floodplain forests, old pastures and fields, and transport and utility rights-of-way. It thrives in disturbed sites, and is frequently a problem in urban parks, bike trails, and forest preserves. However, it can also invade relatively high-quality woodlands (Hilty 2017).
Once Amur honeysuckle is introduced to a habitat it can spread very quickly due to a number of competitive advantages. It produces leaves very early in the spring and loses its leaves late in the fall, effectively extending its growing season. It also grows tall very quickly to gain access to light, which in turn blocks light from other species. The leaves, roots and fruits of Amur honeysuckle all exude chemicals that reduce the germination and growth of a variety of native species (McNeish and McEwan 2016). Due to these advantages, Amur honeysuckle often dominates forest understories, reducing the diversity of native shrubs and forbs and reducing tree recruitment. This latter effect can also have economic impacts on commercial woodlots as can its effect of reducing growth of overstory trees (Hartman and McCarthy 2007). Honeysuckle dominance affects community structure and ecosystem function, with documented negative impacts on a number of native taxa including songbirds, rodents, insects, and amphibians (McNeish and McEwan 2016, Robison et al. 2021). Further, the presence of Amur honeysuckle leaf litter and leachates has been found to impact a number of wetland characteristics, including disolved oxygen concentrations, algal biomass, duckweed biomass, and macroinvertebrate population size and community structure (Robison et al. 2021).
Amur honeysuckle may negatively impact human health by altering habitats in ways that benefit mosquito and tick species that carry pathogens harmful to people (McNeish and McEwan 2016).
Amur honeysuckle was grown as an ornamental plant in North America by botanic gardens and arboreta beginning in the late 1800’s, and seed was widely distributed as part of a USDA plant introduction experiment (Luken and Thieret 1996). It became popular as a planting for erosion control, wildlife habitat, and for its ornamental qualities. Today, Amur honeysuckle’s invasiveness is broadly recognized, many states have banned its sale, and it is no longer readily available from nurseries.
Please see our Landscape Alternatives landing page for more information about how the WIGL Collaborative selected alternatives for each species.
|Alternatives for Amur Honeysuckle
Common name (Latin name)
Tall shrub to small tree;
|Canada serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)||✔||✔||✔||~|
|Apple serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora)||✔||~||✔||~|
|Roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii)||✔||~||✔||~|
|American black elderberry (Sambucus canadensis,
Sambucus nigra var. canadensis)
|Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)||✔||✔||✔|
|Seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides)||✔||✔||~|
|Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)
~ = trait is somewhat present but not as pronounced as in check-marked examples
a Species is dioecious. Fruits grow on female plants. At least one male plant is required for pollination and fruiting.
b Size varies by cultivar
Green = native to part of the Great Lakes Basin
Yellow = native to the United States but not to the Basin
Blue = not native but not invasive
The following is a brief overview of management techniques shown to be effective on Amur honeysuckle. For more detailed information on how to use these techniques, visit our Management and Control page. For local assistance managing woody invasive species, please get in touch with a cooperative invasive species management group or a university extension program.
Timing and spread concerns: Whenever possible, individual plants should be controlled before they are able to fruit in order to prevent spread. If control is undertaken after plants have fruited, it is best not to remove the plants from the site to avoid spreading seed.
Physical control: Small plants are easily hand-pulled from moist soil; larger plants can be dug or pulled using equipment. Amur honeysuckle has relatively shallow roots compared to other invasive woody plants, even when the above-ground plant is large. Thus, it is sometimes possible to successfully remove mature honeysuckle using a weed wrench or a digging tool. A caveat is that pulling mature plants in a dense infestation causes a significant amount of soil disturbance, which often leads to a flush of germination of honeysuckle seeds the following year (Munger 2005). Intensive mowing can also be effective, particularly in a forest (shaded) situation. The initial mowing should be done late in the growing season, preferably cutting plants 2” from the soil surface. Regrowth and new seedlings should be mowed or cut once every two weeks during the subsequent growing seasons until regrowth is diminished significantly. It is not clear how long cutting efforts will need to continue to reach full control (MIPN). Amur honeysuckle regrows vigorously from cut stems and stumps after injury, so methods that top-kill plants, such as prescribed fire, grazing, and stem cutting, are unlikely to provide effective long-term control (Munger 2005).
Chemical control and combined approaches: Foliar application of herbicide is the most feasible method for a large, dense infestation, and is effective anytime plants are actively growing and fully leafed out. Because Amur honeysuckle retains leaves later than almost all native deciduous plants, late fall is the ideal time to conduct foliar application to reduce off-target impacts. Foliar application in spring following flowering is also effective, but can potentially damage spring wildflowers. Foliar application can be done as a stand-alone practice or can be used as a follow up to top-killing physical control methods by applying herbicide to regrowth. Cut stump and basal bark herbicide treatments are effective and can be applied during most of the year, avoiding early spring. Cut stump is often preferred over basal bark due to the multi-stemmed form of most Amur honeysuckles. In all cases, herbicide should be selected carefully based on site conditions, and label directions read and followed carefully.
With any treatment it will be necessary to monitor for and treat regrowth in subsequent years. Managers should expect treatment of dense honeysuckle infestations to be a long-term commitment.
Resources on management of Amur honeysuckle:
- Bartuszevige, AM and DL Gorchov. 2006. Avian dispersal of an invasive shrub. Biological Invasions. 8: 1013-1022.
- Dirr, MA. 1998. Lonicera maackii. In: Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Fifth Edition. Champlain, IL: Stipes Publishing. 580.
- Guiden, P, Gorchov, DL, Nielsen, C, and E Schauber. Seed dispersal of an invasive shrub, Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), by white-tailed deer in a fragmented agricultural-forest matrix. Plant Ecology. 216: 939-950.
- Hartman, KM and BC McCarthy. 2007. A dendro‐ecological study of forest overstorey productivity following the invasion of the non‐indigenous shrub Lonicera maackii. Applied Vegetation Science. 10: 3-14.
- Hilty, J. 2017. Amur honeysuckle In: Illinois Wildflowers. 6/18/2019.
- Luken, JO and JW Thieret. 1996. Amur honeysuckle, its fall from grace. BioScience. 46(1): 18-24.
- McNeish, RE and BW McEwan. 2016. A review on the invasive ecology of Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii): a case study of ecological impacts at multiple scales. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society. 143(4): 367-385.
- Munger, GT. 2005. Lonicera spp. In: Fire Effects Information System. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. 6/19/2019.
- Robison, AL., Berta, JL., Mott, CL., & Regester, KJ. 2021. Impacts of invasive Amur honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii, leaf litter on multiple trophic levels of detritus-based experimental wetlands. Freshwater Biology. 66(8): 1464-1474.
Photo: Annemaria Smith, Ohio DNR, via bugwood.org