Archive for the ‘Introduction – A Primer!’ Category

A Prezi presentation on the Asian Bush Honeysuckle problem in Missouri is available to the general public

Here is the link: http://prezi.com/qvsq-kacbivy/copy-of-the-destruction-of-missouri/


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Nothing illustrates the utterly devastating damage from Asian Bush Honeysuckle better than a visit to the local creek


A creek in Columbia, Missouri


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A creek in a woodland in St. Louis, Missouri

In Honeysuckle infested areas, a solid wall of 15+ foot honeysuckle will completely cover the bank, thereby severely limiting access



Honeysuckle on the bank



The green tunnel


Outside the green tunnel – the creek is underneath the wall of Honeysuckle


In a traditional Missouri landscape, access to wetlands, creeks, and river banks can be difficult, with tall grasses and forbs, bushes and small trees.


Native plants along the bank


In general, however, creeks and wetlands will be accessible and visible from a distance and few plants will continually block access along the banks

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No Honeysuckle yet – in full sun!


A traditional Missouri landscape – Rock Bridge State Park


Creek banks can be seen and approached with ease

A creek bank in a woodland – Rock Bridge State Park


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I will admit that some people like Asian Bush Honeysuckle.  If you ignore all the ecological and aesthetic damage, there are a few benefits.  For example, mowing around its unrelenting monoculture does create an intense hedge for privacy.

Unless its covered in concrete or mowed, it's Honeysuckle!

It also blooms proficiently (thereby creating a lot of offspring) and it is certainly is cheap (actually free) and easy to grow.

Flowers - in your face!


I don’t know anyone who likes ticks.   Even if they didn’t attack us for a blood meal that can leave us with a serious illness, they would still be creepy.

Amblyomma americanum - The Lone Star Tick

Well it turns out that a Washington University study in St. Louis, Missouri, found that Asian Bush Honeysuckle infestations encourage lone star tick infestations.

Ticks like it in here!

Here is the news release about the study: http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/21073.aspx


Honeysuckle and Ticks: Cooperative Infestations

An interdisciplinary team of ecologists, molecular biologists and physicians from Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Missouri-St. Louis found that:

“the density of white-tailed deer in honeysuckle-invaded areas was roughly five times that in areas without honeysuckle and the density of nymph life-stage ticks infected with bacteria that cause human disease was roughly 10 times higher”

Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI)

According to the study, deer love to tunnel through Honeysuckle.  Here is a quote from the article:

“The deer used the open areas less than the honeysuckle patches and we don’t think it’s because they’re eating the honeysuckle; we think they’re using it for physical structure,” says Allan. “They like to bed in it because it’s the densest thing out there, the best structure in town. No native species comes close to achieving the same density.”

Because Honeysuckle remains green longer in the fall, it basically becomes a deer magnet at the same time that larval ticks are looking for a blood meal.

The researchers found this situation caused severe tick infestations.  One trap found “5,000 nymphal ticks within about a three-meter radius” from the trap.

The article points out that the study was consistent with other studies that associated a loss of biodiversity with disease risk.  Here is a quote from one of the researchers:

“We’re really simplifying our environment,” Allan says. “That’s what the diversity crisis is leading to — humans living in monocultures. That’s exactly what bush honeysuckle is, a human-caused monoculture.”

“But as ecologists like to say, nature abhors a monoculture. Monocultures are unstable, and they often have negative consequences for human health”

The study also gave practical advice for anyone wanting to do field studies on ticks.  One of the researchers wore “special anti-tick underwear called Bug Skinz and permethrin-saturated clothing over that”

Traditional Missouri woodland - don't we have enough ticks already!

The article noted that removing Asian Bush Honeysuckle was a win win situation, where protecting our natural plant communities also protects our health.

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Not all Honeysuckles are bad.  It’s just that some don’t belong here because they are invasive and cause damage.  Here is a Honeysuckle that does belong here:

Photo: Brad Harris

This is the Trumpet Honeysuckle: Lonicera sempervirens.  It is a vine that blooms from May to June and can be up to 15 feet.  It likes full sun.

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From now on, all outdoor space requires our attention!

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Our new relentless monotonous default condition

From now on, wilderness will require intense gardening to remain wilderness!


Honeysuckle stumped and killed 

Original Missouri – Keep it clean!
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Traditional Missouri landscape – At risk!

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Local plants can’t always compete with imported plants, which have evolved to survive in different conditions, with different reproductive strategies

Honeysuckle taking advantage of a small unmowed area


To make matters worse, some exotic invasive varieties were bred to produce more fruit, and therefor more offspring

Bred for berry production...oops!


According to Ron Rathfon, Extension Forester, Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University:

an improvement program was established to identify and propagate varieties producing large quantities of fruit. The result was “Rem-Red”, a variety of Amur honeysuckle that produces large quantities of bright red berries.”



The results speak for themselves!

Overgrown overkill

Honeysuckle is not the only example of invasive plants from overseas being developed into cultivars for the nursery trade.

Let me introduce you to the Bradford Pear

An older Bradford Pear in the foreground, with many of its babies in back

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In urban areas,  large expanses of terrain have been blanketed with mature, fruiting Honeysuckle bushes.

Escaped the bulldozer, not the bush…

The result is a heavy crop of seeds dispersed by birds.

The next generation – saturation!

After a while seeds are deposited everywhere.  Any place that doesn’t get a lot of attention will become infested.

Pull it out! Keep it out!

Today I mowed the grass for the first time this spring.  It was also my first chance to see what the birds deposited in the yard since last fall.

Prepare to meet the mower blade!

I estimate there were at least 25 Honeysuckle seedlings in my small back yard.

Anthropocene shadows

Frequent mowing seems to keep them down, giving my bluegrass and fescue lawn a chance to be the alternate Missouri groundcover.

Competing Backyard monocultures

Accidental Monoculture

From now on, all outdoor space requires our attention!

Infiltration via brush pile

From now on, wilderness will require intense gardening to remain wilderness!


Original Missouri – Keep it clean!


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