Several years ago I realized that our farm was being invaded by Japanese Honeysuckle, an aggressive shrub that takes over and smothers everything in its path. Under my nose, our woods and stream banks had been taken over, and the bright red berries of mature honeysuckle bushes were being spread everywhere by birds. There were huge, spreading “mother plants” covered with berries, and a carpet of seedlings under them where their berries had fallen.
Perhaps you’ve noticed these bushes lining the woods and hedgerows. The plants really stand out in November, because most other woodland plants have lost their leaves. Amur honeysuckle bushes practically glow with light green foliage and shiny red berries. Left alone, they form dense undergrowth too thick to walk through. Birds eat the berries and spread their seeds far and wide.
I’ll bet you have a few in your yard. If you own wooded acreage, I’d be surprised if the same invasion isn’t well advanced on your property. You need to take action and destroy them before your entire landscape turns into a jungle. In doing so you’ll contribute to one of the most important environmental battles of our time. Just ask any urban forester, forest ranger, park manager or conservationist. They’re losing sleep over this problem right now.
Our 158 acres are half wooded, half meadowland. We have miles of trails, which could gradually be blocked and blotted out by the invaders. We’ve already spent days cutting the plants back and grubbing them out. We’re busy, pulled in a thousand directions, as you probably are too. How can we beat back this invasion?
Courtesy of ODNR Urban Forester Wendi Van Buren, here are a few suggestions. She sent me a long list; I narrowed it down to ideas that are efficient, take a minimum of hard labor and work particularly well in fall:
1.Young plants can simply be pulled out. This method works best after a good rain when the ground is moist and soft. Wear gloves with rubberized palms for a better grip as sometimes the young bark slips off, and the stem becomes slippery. If you leave the plant on the ground, be sure that you leave the roots in the air, or the plant can re-root itself.
2. Mix Roundup concentrate with water in a pump sprayer and just walk around your property, spraying every honeysuckle bush you see.
3. Using a hatchet or hand hoe, slash the larger plants just a few inches above ground level. Immediately spray brush killer into the wounds. We use Bonide Brush Killer concentrate mixed with water in a small pump sprayer. RoundupPro or Finale work also. Be sure to follow the directions on the label.
4. Cut the plant off at the ground and immediately paint or spray a strong mixture of brush killer or Roundup on the cut. If you wait to apply the herbicide, the wound will have “healed”, and the herbicide will not be carried to the roots.
5. Use an EZ-Ject® Lance to inject capsules of brush killer into the bark around the base of the plant. The EZ-Ject can be loaded with up to 400 pre-made plugs of herbicides encased in brass capsules. Place the lance’s gripping teeth against the trunk of the shrub, then PUSH! The brass capsule is then driven into the tree trunk. You can find this tool, instructions and demonstration videos at www.ezject.com.
I’m happy to report that since 2015 when we first realized the threat of invasive honeysuckles on our farm, we’ve turned the tide and dramatically reduced their population. Simply setting aside a day or two each November, and focusing on the worst areas, we’ve eliminated hundreds of these pests, particularly the large “mother plants”. This fall we’ll take up the battle again. I urge you to join it, on your own yard.
Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in landscape “makeovers”. “Let’s Grow” is published weekly; column archives are online at www.goodseedfarm.com. For more information call GoodSeed Farm Landscapes at (937) 587-7021.