Study this photo.
What's wrong with it?
It appears to show the arrival of spring to the forest understory. And it does. But why is it not a good thing?
In this case the understory shrub that's leafing out is bush honeysuckle, a.k.a. Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), and it's not native to the Tennessee Valley or Ijams. The flowering shrub was introduced as a backyard ornamental but it escaped to become naturalized throughout the American southeast.
Think of it as tall kudzu.
Bush honeysuckle is native to China (the Amur River Valley, hence the name), Mongolia, Korea and Japan. In fact, in the latter, it's listed as an endangered species. But not here where it's become highly invasive.
Bush honeysuckle leafs out early. Other plants do not have a chance. And like kudzu, once bush honeysuckle becomes established it creates a monoculture and no other native wildflower or shrub can compete against it.
At the nature center, Ed Yost, Ben Nanny and hundreds of volunteers have worked to eradicate it from large sections of the park. But still it exists in places. The fight continues. The good news: once you remove it, the native wildflowers return.
If you have this shrub growing near you or in your backyard, attack it with a sickle, pruner or even a butcher knife if need be. Work out your pent up hostility. Because if you do not, it'll take over.
- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales