Honeysuckle is one of our native woodland climbers and its lovely fragrance means it is often smelt before it is seen, especially on a still summer's evening. Goat-leaf or Italian honeysuckle (lonicera caprifolium) is a very similar, naturalised species distinguished from wild honeysuckle by the topmost leaves which are perfoliate in the goat-leaf variety (that is, the stem appears to grow through the centre of the leaf).
Honeysuckle twines itself around
shrubs and trees, always growing from east to west, and eventually reaching a height of about 6m.
The reddish buds open between June and September into cream, trumpet-like flowers, which turn buff or yellow after pollination. Clusters of glossy, scarlet berries form towards the end of summer. The greyish-green leaves are oval and have very short stalks.
As Honeysuckle entwines itself round branches, the branches themselves become twisted, and were once prized for making walking-sticks.
HONEYSUCKLE AND WILDLIFE
Honeysuckle is a vital plant for wildlife, including butterflies, birds, insects and Dormice.
The declining White Admiral butterfly is dependent on Honeysuckle as it the caterpillar's exclusive food-plant. You can see adult White Admirals gliding along woodland rides from June to August.
Dormice use honeysuckle bark to build nests for their summer young but they also eat the sweet, nectar-rich flowers as a reliable source of energy.
The sweet scent of Honeysuckle is strongest at night when it attracts pollinating moths, such as the distinctive Hummingbird Hawk Moth. Moths can detect the scent a quarter of a mile away.
The red berries are a favourite early-autumn food of many birds including thrushes, warblers and Bullfinches.
Bumblebees love the nectar and will choose Honeysuckle over many other flowers.
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Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018