The Honeysuckle is a family of arching shrubs or twining vines in the family Caprifoliaceae. They are native to the Northern Hemisphere. There are about 180 known species of Honeysuckle. Approximately 100 of these species are native to China. Another 20 native species occur in Europe, India and, North America each. Hummingbirds are particularly attracted to the flowers on many of these plants.
Most species of Honeysuckle are hardy twining climbers. The leaves are opposite, and simple ovals. The leaves average approximately 4.5 in (10 cm) in length. Most varieties are deciduous, but some are evergreen. Many of the species of Honeysuckle have sweetly-scented flowers. These flowers produce a sweet, edible nectar. Most flowers are borne in clusters of two. Both shrubby and vining sorts have strongly fibrous stems. These stems have been used for binding and textiles.
The fruit is a red, blue or black spherical or elongated berry. These berries contain several seeds. In most species the berries are mildly poisonous. However, in a few species they are edible. These are grown for home use and commerce. Most Honeysuckle berries are attractive to wildlife. Many species of Honeysuckle are eaten by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species. Several species of honeysuckle have become invasive when introduced outside their native range. This is particularly true in New Zealand and the United States.
The Honeysuckle is widely valued as a garden plant. This is partly due to their ability to cover unsightly walls and outbuildings. They are also popular for their profuse tubular flowers in summer. Yet another reason is the intense fragrance of many varieties. The hardy climbing types need their roots in shade. But they need their flowering tops in sunlight or very light shade. Varieties need to be chosen with care, because most grow prolifically.
Todd Sain Sr.
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