Common Name: Bell’s Honeysuckle
Scientific Name: Lonicera x bella Zabel (Hybrid of Lonicera morrowii and Lonicera tatarica)
Legal Status: Restricted
Propagation and sale of this plant are prohibited in Minnesota. Transportation is only allowed when in compliance with Minnesota Statute 18.82. Although Restricted Noxious Weeds are not required to be controlled or eradicated by law, landowners are strongly encouraged to manage these invasive plants on their properties in order to reduce spread into new areas. Minnesota Noxious Weed Law.
Bell’s honeysuckle is a hybrid of two non-native species—Morrow’s honeysuckle (L. morrowii), which is native to Japan, and Tartarian honeysuckle (L. tatarica), which is native to Eurasia. It has become naturalized in many Northeast and Midwest U.S. states. It has spread from deliberate horticultural, wildlife habitat, and erosion control plantings, and is now fairly widely distributed throughout Minnesota.
- Bell’s honeysuckle is a multi-stemmed deciduous shrub, reaching a height of 20 feet. It can be easily confused with similar species like Morrow’s, Tatarian or Amur honeysuckles, all distinguished by slight differences in flower color and leaf pubescence. See the Minnesota Department of Transportation guide for comparisons of various honeysuckle.
- The leaves are opposite and oval, with smooth edges. They may be hairless or downy, and green to green-blue. Leaf-out is slightly earlier in spring than native species and leaf-drop slightly later in the fall.
- Flowers are fragrant, pink, fading to yellow, tubular, and arranged in pairs. Bloom time is mid- to late spring.
- Fruits are red or orange spherical berries, occurring in pairs at leaf axils, each containing many seeds.
- Roots are fibrous, shallow, and readily produce suckers.
- Bark is shaggy and peeling, stems are often hollow between the nodes. The young stems are slightly hairy and light brown.
Bell’s honeysuckle can invade a broad range of habitats, including open woods, fens, bogs, lakeshores, roadsides, pastures, old fields, and wood’s edges. It thrives in sunny sites and is relatively shade intolerant.
Means of spread and distribution
Bell’s honeysuckle reproduces asexually by root suckering and layering. The main method of spread to new sites is through seed dispersal by birds. Bell’s honeysuckle produces abundant seeds which are vectored by birds.
Bell’s honeysuckle is widespread throughout Minnesota.
High densities of honeysuckles can suppress native plant and timber regeneration and form monocultures. Ecosystem richness and density of tree seedlings are substantially reduced in honeysuckle infestations. This species can alter a habitat’s microclimate, by creating dense shade, depleting soil moisture and nutrients, and possibly releasing allelopathic chemicals that inhibit growth of other plants. It can be especially harmful to spring ephemerals, due to its early leafing.
Prevention and management
- Once established, Bell’s honeysuckle is difficult to control. For all management options, infestation sites will need to be monitored and treated repeatedly for 3- 5 years until the seedbanks and suckers are depleted.
- Do not plant invasive honeysuckle species as an ornamental and eradicate existing plants on your property. There are native species which can be planted as alternatives, you can find a list of them in the MIPN Landscape Alternatives brochure.
- Young plants can be pulled by hand. Mature plants can be removed by using a weed wrench tool or by repeated cutting. Keep in mind that physical removal in this manner can disturb soils and result in reinvasion or resprouting of honeysuckles and other exotics.
- Prescribed burning can be an effective tool to control infestations in combination with other techniques. Spring burning will kill seedlings and the tops of mature plants. Make sure to contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to learn more about control burning practices and regulations.
- Foliar, stem injection, and cut-stem application of herbicides that translocate their active ingredients into the root system can be very effective. Treatments will need to be repeated for several years to eradicate a population. If using herbicide treatments, check with your local University of Minnesota Extension agent, co-op, or certified landscape care expert for assistance and recommendations. There are several businesses throughout the state with certified herbicide applicators that can be hired to perform chemical applications.