Magazine article American Forests

Sweet-Smelling Forest Threat

Magazine article American Forests

Sweet-Smelling Forest Threat

Article excerpt

As large-scale agriculture shifts west and portions of the northeastern United States return to woods, forest recovery and species diversity are being challenged by a sweet-smelling but aggressive adversary, honeysuckle.

Three Asian species, L. maackii, L. tatarica, and L. japonica, were introduced 100 years ago as useful plants, but most land managers now consider them highly undesirable, aggressive weeds. Amur honeysuckle (L. maackii), for example, was widely promoted by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, along with multiflora rose. Together, they've taken to the woods throughout the Midwest. Oops.

Amur honeysuckle has become the dominant shrub in both forests and open areas from Appalachia to the upper Midwest, forest researchers say. It does best in disturbed forest patches with large amounts of edge or open canopy. In the woods, fast-growing and early-maturing honeysuckle inhibits canopy tree regeneration and reduces the abundance of native trees, shrub, and herbs. Birds help disperse the huge quantity of small red fruits it produces. The shrubs, which leaf out early and hold their leaves late in the season, are not susceptible to many pathogens or herbivores. …

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