north carolina native honeysuckle

Pinch off the end, pull out the middle, and lick that tiny drop of “honey.” Don’t pinch too hard, and don’t let it drip.

We learn this important process — what to do with a honeysuckle blossom — as kids. As we get older, we pass it down to our little brothers and sisters, responsibly teaching them the ways of the woods. We then pass it down to our children, fondly remembering the innocence of childhood rituals.

But the novelty of the honeysuckle often conceals its complexity.

The small, white flowers that grow on unwieldy vines and smell syrupy sweet aren’t ours. ‘Japanese’ honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, takes over yards and fields and pastures. But our native ‘trumpet’ honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, is much easier to control. In the spring, the native variety produces slender, red flowers that attract ruby-throated hummingbirds. In the fall, it bears red berries. Garden centers encourage customers to use it along fences and rails.

As the ‘trumpet’ honeysuckle grows, the vine climbs by entwining around posts or branches. The plant isn’t picky about region; it’s native statewide. But it prefers sunny spots, such as open yards or woodland edges, places where the upper leaves can soak up sunlight and pass it down.

Every color

The most common ‘trumpet’ honeysuckle in North Carolina is red, but the blooms appear in several different colors, such as yellow, coral, and pink. These colors weren’t born in a greenhouse or lab. Each one appears naturally as a genetic mutation.

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