How Did Honeysuckle Get to Wisconsin?


Early Introduction to America

  • Several varieties of exotic bush honeysuckle grow in Wisconsin: Bella, Morrow's and Tartarian. None of these grew naturally in the state; they came from Europe and Asia. They do not resemble the native varieties--grape, red and yellow honeysuckle vines. The earliest recorded introduction of bush honeysuckle to the area that became the U.S. was in 1752, when settlers from Europe brought Tartarian honeysuckles to New England. Other bush honeysuckle plants came in the late 1800s when settlers brought them as ornamental plants.

Spread and Extent to Wisconsin

  • From New England, bush honeysuckles moved south to North Carolina. Both settlers and wildlife carried the seeds for the plants. People planted the honeysuckle in their gardens, and birds and insects spread the seeds to uninhabited areas. As people began to move west from the eastern seaboard of the United States, they took bush honeysuckle plants for ornamental garden plants. Many of the plants in urban areas of southern and eastern Wisconsin trace their origins to the gardens of the earliest settlers. Some of the plantings of bush honeysuckles in unincorporated regions of the state can be attributed to endeavors to improve natural woodlands. The types of honeysuckles planted to increase wildlife habitats were the exotic bush varieties rather than the native types.

Problems With Invasive Honeysuckle

  • The exotic bush honeysuckles often overwhelm native species, competing with them for nutrients and water in the soil and sunlight. They may be so strong that native plants die off and woodland areas are overtaken by the invasive honeysuckles. The plants can be hard on an ecosystem. Beneath the covering of the leaves of the plant (canopy) nothing can grow, and the soil becomes bare. In some parts of Wisconsin, the exotic species may kill off some native plants and alter the ecosystem.

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