Earthworms’ Castings

Honey and Bush Honeysuckle

With Jean Ponzi

My Honey and Bush Honeysuckle

We used to have it all around the borders of our city yard.

It was the ideal privacy hedge: early-bird first to green up in spring, last to lose its leaves in the fall; showy, snowy blossoms turn to glossy scarlet fruit. I bet you have it too, and if you do, you totally love it.

What’s not to love with this woody bush? For the Human who falls for pretty, for easy-to-love. For all the wrong reasons, and then we are stuck.

My beloved mate Dale has worked his way through this berry-gnarly romance. He’s come out the other side, wiser and widely sharing his tale.

It started at our place in 2014. We had actually transplanted Bush Honeysuckles, spaced them out along our property lines when we moved there in 1994. Twenty years later, as pines and cedars we had planted for an actual Evergreen Hedge matured, Dale started to whack along the Honeysuckle Line. Except for our few hopeful conifers, there were no other plants around the edge of our yard. None. Zero. No baby trees of any kind, almost no ground weeds! It was a Honeysuckle Desert out there.

Invasive Bush Honeysuckle was running our place. Driving along St. Louis highways, observing the foliage that fateful spring, we could see that first flush of glorious green was only one kind of plant. This alluring Green Monster raised a Red Alert.
Dale is an Artist. There’s no telling what artists will do. He just knew he had to take action.

He called all his enviro-org buds together for – a soiree.

Not a meeting, not a conference. It was an afternoon affair, with chocolates and cookies and wine or tea. At Stone Spiral Coffee, where Dale is a regular.

He brought in some tables he had made from this bush: stick legs, folk-art quirky, appealing! Something useful could be done with this too-abundant stuff!

He said, “We’re all dealing with this issue! We all host events, call in volunteers. We’re all trying to control this invasive bush. Let’s concentrate our efforts!”

So local biodiversity advocates launched the Honeysuckle Sweep for Healthy Habitat. At first, the Sweep ran for a couple of weekends, spring and fall. That was in 2016.
This year, through the entire month of March, adult and youth volunteers can learn to remove Bush Honeysuckle, supported by the pros, in public places region-wide. They can translate that experience to their own yards and neighborhoods.

Each year now, in spring and fall, hundreds of service minded humans do! Missouri Botanical Garden coordinates logistics for the Honeysuckle Sweep, including tracking data and directing efforts from the website www. BiodiverseCitySTL.org. Thanks to support from visionary donors, Allison Brown, Restoration Ecology Coordinator, is a full-time staffer overseeing the Sweep!

One person’s idea can have far reach.

Last spring, Dale took Bush Honeysuckle to Trial. In the historic St. Louis Old Courthouse, in partnership with the National Park Service. With a real judge, real environmental lawyers, real expert witnesses, a jury – and (because he’s an artist) a live band!

Victory was not a slam-dunk. Ted Heisel, counsel for the Defense, played up the fact that few of us are native here. Our ancestors were invaders. Evolution may even things out, maybe, but meanwhile, why persecute a plant? Prosecutor Kathleen Henry, head of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, pressed the case that, yes, humans brought it here, and this bush is a serious threat.

The Jury decided Bush Honey-suckle was indeed guilty of being an Invasive Plant. Judge Anna Forder ruled that we all are responsible for taking action, immediately and until further notice.

The verdict from this educational trial is non-binding, but relations developed through work on the trial are moving in real official channels to deal with Bush Honey-suckle, especially before it invades the Ozarks.

This year, the Trial of Bush Honeysuckle can be viewed online, thanks to Missouri Historical Society, whose video-historians documented the live event. You can see this trial on YouTube! Type in Trial of Bush Honeysuckle to see the Person vs. Plant case fruitfully debated.

Artists, nature lovers, legal eagles joined together to help each one of us understand the truth of these relations: where one species, out of its natural place, is out-competing everything that should be thriving here, even one person can help restore balance.
Like each berry’s seed that can sprout another dominating bush, each one of us can seed a significant change. Let’s work with Nature, Eco-Logically aware, to make our creative changes work for good.

Jean Ponzi converses about All Things Green each week on the KDHX Earthworms podcast. Pick ‘em up at KDHX.org. Visit www.woodworms.org to learn more about her husband Dale’s work.