Honeysuckle is an attractive and often fragrant flowering shrub or vine found across the world, and honeysuckle symbolism is just as lovely as the plants themselves. Most typically, honeysuckle is thought to mean affection and love. The most common North American varieties are common honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum, also called woodbine), coral or trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) and Japanese or Chinese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica).
Honeysuckle Plant Basics
In most of its varieties, honeysuckle is a low-maintenance plant that produces pretty flowers that appeal to pollinators, like bees and birds (including hummingbirds). Because honeysuckle is hardy, aggressive and drought tolerant, it can quickly become invasive when introduced in new habitats. This is the case for Japanese honeysuckle, which is classified as a major pest due to its ability to climb up and smother nearby small shrubs and trees.
The plant is named honeysuckle for the sweet nectar it produces, which humans and other animals can suck out of its flowers for consumption. Different varieties of honeysuckle grow different-colored flowers, ranging from white and yellow to a deep red. Honeysuckle has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat ailments ranging from sores to fevers and infectious diseases.
Floriography: The Language of Flowers
Perhaps because of their beauty and variety, flowers have been used as symbols across continents and centuries. Interest in the language of flowers blossomed (so to speak) during the Victorian era, when multiple books were published to interpret the messages one could send with different kinds of flowers.
The book "The Illustrated Language of Flowers," by Anna Christian Burke, indicates that white catchfly represents betrayal, imperial montague represents power and cypress represents death. Different varieties of the same flower might have very different meanings. Henrietta Dumont's 1852 book "The Language of Flowers" indicates that while white mulberry symbolizes wisdom, black mulberry has the darker meaning of "I shall not survive you."
In the language of flowers, honeysuckle is most commonly taken to mean love and affection. "The Language of Flowers" expands upon this symbolism, noting that honeysuckle has come to represent affection due to "its clinging to trees and lattices with all the ardour and constancy of a weak, confiding woman."
Honeysuckle Flower Meaning
The book "The Lover's Language of Flowers," published anonymously, goes into more detail. Whereas regular honeysuckle, or woodbine, symbolizes "devoted affection," the author says that wild honeysuckle indicates "inconstant love" and French honeysuckle "rustic beauty." Jessica Roux's book "Floriography" also offers devotion as a potential meaning of honeysuckle, and she notes that Victorians believed that people who slept with honeysuckle flowers under their pillow would dream of their true love.
The specific type of happiness contained in the honeysuckle flower's meaning can vary based on the color of the honeysuckle flower that's being used. In the language of flowers, white typically represents innocence, yellow represents friendship, pink represents flirtation and red represents passion. Since honeysuckle flowers come in all of these colors, the flower can be used to represent different kinds of love.
When used in bouquets, honeysuckle can be paired with other flowers to expand and deepen its meaning. "Floriography" suggests pairing honeysuckle with orchids to indicate that the sender is grateful for a gift or pairing them with cornflowers to show devotion to the recipient.
- CAB International: Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
- National Institutes of Health: Lonicera japonica Thunb.: Ethnopharmacology, Phytochemistry and Pharmacology of an Important Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Smithsonian Gardens: Language of Flowers
- Google Books: The Illustrated Language of Flowers
- Google Books: The Lover's Language of Flowers; Expressive of the Sentiments of the Heart: with Floral Poetry, Letters,&c. By a Lover of Flowers