Lonicera japonica

Author: Catherine Wallis Branch

Common Names: (Everett, 1981)

Higher Taxa: (Esposito, 1994)

Identification: The Swedish botanist, Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), first recorded the identification of the species Lonicera japonica in the book Floral Japonica in August, 1784. Main type specimens are located in the Thunberg herbarium which was given to Uppsala University of Thunbergsvagen, Sweden in 1785 (Holmgren et al., 1990). The locations where the specimens were collected could not be found (Branch, 1997).

Radford, Ahles, and Bell (Radford et.al, 1968) describe the species as follows, "high climbing or trailing vine, stems glabrous to densely pubescent. Leaves evergreen, ovate, elliptic to oblong, 3-7.5 cm long, 1.5-4.5 cm wide, acute, entire, ciliate or eciliate, base rounded, leaves of new shoots in the spring often lobed; petioles 3-10 mm long. Peduncles 0-2.5 cm long, usually petiolate, bracteoles 0-8.3 mm long, ovaries separate to near base. Calyx lobes 1-2 mm long; corolla 2-lipped, white or pink fading to yellow, tube not gibbous at base, longest lobes about equaling the tube. Berry black, glossy, globose to subglobose, 5-6 mm long" (Radford et al., 1968). A page from Cornell gives some illustrations of leaf and flower forms found in Lonicera japonica.

Figure 1. Distant view of Lonicera japonica.
(University of Georgia Herbarium Slide Collection, Scanned by Elizabeth Skillen)
Distant Image of L. Japonica (U.G.A.)

Note that some of the flowers are white, and some are yellow. It is known that the blooms fade from white to yellow with age (Radford et al., 1968).

Figure 2. Two examples of L. japonica illustrating color variations.

Figure 2A. L. japonica Figure 2B. L. japonica
L. japonica (U.G.A. Herbarium) L. japonica (Courtesy of Nomura Masato.)
Univ. of Georgia Herbarium Slide Collection Courtesy of Nomura Masato.
Scanned by Elizabeth Skillen

In Figure 2A above (left), from the University of Georgia Herbarium, note that both the white flowers and the yellow flowers appear to have yellow stamens. In Figure 2B above (right), taken at Mt.Futagami Yama in Japan by amateur photographer, Nomura Masato, note that all flowers appear entirely white, including stamens. Different subspecies are known to exist within Lonicera japonica which notably vary from one to another (Everett 1981). It is not known whether the differences in the colors of these two samples represent examples of variations in subspecies or color fading with aging.

Geography: This species is native to Japan, Korea, China, and Manchuria (Everett, 1981). It was introduced into the United States from Asia and escaped cultivation especially in the Southern states. Now it spreads through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana eastward to Florida and north to Massachusetts. It is also found in Oregon and Washington (Vines, 1960). According to Huxley, Griffiths, and Levy, it is distributed widely throughout the Northern Hemisphere and is naturalized to southeastern United States (Huxley et al., 1992).

Table I: North American Distribution of L.japonica

Lonicera japonica

North America:
Continental United States; Canada
Yes Huxley, Anthony & Levy 1992
Eastern North America:
United States east of Mississippi;
Ontario and eastern Canada
Yes Huxley, Anthony & Levy 1992
Southeastern United States:
Yes Huxley, Anthony, & Levy 1992
Southern Appalachian States:
Yes Huxley, Anthony, & Levy 1992
Coastal Plain Widespread Radford, Ahles & Bell, 1968;
Jones & Coile, 1988
Piedmont Widespread Radford, Ahles & Bell, 1968;
Jones & Coile, 1988
Blue Ridge Mountains Widespread Radford, Ahles & Bell, 1968
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Yes Radford, Ahles & Bell, 1968
Ridge and Valley Yes Jones & Coile, 1988
Cumberland Plateau Yes Jones & Coile, 1988
Central Arch ? -
Georgia Widespread Jones & Coile, 1988
Clarke County, Georgia Yes Jones & Coile, 1968
Sams Farm Common Catie Branch, Pers. Ob.
Old Field Rare Catie Branch, Pers. Ob.
Wetland ? -
Woods Widespread Catie Branch, Pers. Ob.
1-Hectare Plot Yes Catie Branch, Pers. Ob.

Natural History: Lonicera japonica is deciduous in severe climates but is evergreen in milder ones (Everett, 1981). Typically, it flowers from April until June and fruits from August until October (Radford et al., 1968). However, L.japonica may also bloom in late summer, as indicated by the samples collected in August in Lee County, AL. At least five species of birds are known to eat the fruit and the herbage is thought to attract deer (Vines, 1960). However, the vine is considered to be a pernicious weed and a pest in many locations where it grows without restraint. Overwhelming and strangling to other flora, vines often destroy indigenous vegetation. They are fairly difficult to eradicate (Fernald, 1950). A page from Cornell on Woody Weeds of Nursery and Landscape gives some information on the control of L.japonica and some other weeds.

How to Encounter: L.japonica flourishes in moist earth along streams, fence rows, and borders of woods (Vines, 1960). Being a vine, it often grows in association with trees. It can be found in the spring and summer and is easily recognized when in bloom by both fragrance and color. Try looking along fences and the edges of pastures. Sams Farm (located off highway 78 north of Athens, Georgia just past the 16 mile marker on the left) is full of this species of honeysuckle, especially within the designated wooded 1-hectare plot. It is abundant in so many areas that it may even be in your own back yard.

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Last Updated on August 12, 1997