Earthworms’ Castings

With Jean Ponzi

Bush Honeysuckle: Sweep It!

It’s time to take up our loppers, hand saws and – that most amazing leverage tool – the Puller Bear. To take to the parkways, streams and streets and make a dent in the infestation that’s taking over natural Missouri.

Bush Honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii, is degrading our natural areas. It’s turning our woodlands, fields and stream banks into locked-up thickets. This obliterates ecological, economic and recreational value, by totally outcompeting the native plants that should be flourishing in our region’s habitats.

For the first time in the fall – and the second cycle of this year – nature groups of all kinds are joining forces to raise awareness about this terribly invasive plant, and to lead honeysuckle removal efforts that anyone can join and learn from.

The Honeysuckle Sweep for Healthy Habitat returns this fall, October 29 through November 6. “Honeysuckle Hacks” around St. Louis give adults and youth the opportunity to help remove this invader from parks and other public places, while learning the correct ways to eradicate the plant. Property owners can then use this know-how in their own spaces.

For the birds it’s false nutrition! Those bright red berries don’t provide our avian friends with the fats they need in autumn, to migrate or overwinter. Bush Honeysuckle berries are just sugar, empty calories that fill bird bellies without providing nutrition. They’re like a diet of Coca Cola: totally non-sustaining. Yet birds eat them, poop out the seeds and spread Bush Honeysuckle even farther. It’s a lose-lose proposition, literally for the birds.

Your privacy hedge is part of the invasion! Bush Honeysuckle’s dense growth can make your neighbors disappear. While this might seem lovely and secure, it means death to biodiversity, in your yard and around your neighborhood. Many kinds of hardy native bushes can replace that “privacy hedge” within a couple of growing seasons, to provide real sustenance for the birds and other wildlife you love.

You can make a difference! When you volunteer for a Honeysuckle Sweep event, your efforts will be tallied and reported by BiodiverseCity St. Louis, an initiative of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Statistics from these focused efforts will help get grants and sponsor support to expand Bush Honeysuckle removal efforts, and start adding demonstration plantings in public places. Every property owner needs to see these options to restore healthy ecological balance!

During Honeysuckle Sweep in Spring 2016:

  • 14 events were held
  • 321 volunteers participated
  • 9,864 honeysuckle plants were removed
  • 212,846 square feet of land were cleared – blasting past this Sweep’s goal of clearing 30,000 square feet.

That’s making a natural impact!

When there’s too much of it, how could we use it? Artists and nature lovers are finding solutions in the problem. Think About Tables is a project of artist and woodworker Dale Dufer. He teaches half-day workshops in which anyone can make a unique, sturdy table out of Bush Honeysuckle branches Workshops at Shaw Nature Reserve are coming up on November 19 or February 4 or 18.

A study recently completed by Washington University showed that Bush Honeysuckle has a density comparable to hardwoods like oak and hickory – so the BTU value of this invasive plant’s wood is huge! This is an opportunity for a renewable energy business!
What else could we creatively, sustainably do with this too-abundant plant?

For starters, let’s work together to SWEEP it from our parks and stream banks – and get some healthy native plant communities re-established in these precious places.
Find details for all events during Honeysuckle Sweep for Healthy Habitat at www.Biodiverse CitySTL.org.

Join Jean Ponzi for weekly conversations about all things interesting and GREEN. Pick up her KDHX Earthworms’ podcasts at Earthworms.kdhXtra.org, through iTunes.