This is a woody vine up to 15' long that branches sparingly. Its stems
twine about adjacent vegetation or objects for support, otherwise it
tends to form a tangled mound of leafy stems that resembles a bush. At
the base of each vine, the outer bark of the narrow trunk is
shredded into gray strips, revealing an inner bark that is reddish
brown. Young first-year stems are light green to pale reddish green,
glabrous, and terete. With age, these stems can become yellowish tan,
brown, or orange-red and they may become longitudinally grooved. Along
these stems, pairs of opposite leaves occur at intervals. For
non-terminal leaves without flowers, individual leaf blades are up to
4" long and 3" across; they are oval, ovate, or obovate in shape and
smooth along their margins. The bases of these leaf blades are either
narrowly perfoliate, sessile, or they have short petioles. The
upper surface of non-terminal leaf blades is yellowish green to medium
green and glabrous, while the lower surface is usually
whitened and either short-pubescent or glabrous (usually the
latter). The upper 1-2 pairs of opposite leaves have similar
characteristics to the non-terminal leaves, except they are strongly
perfoliate and become conspicuously glaucous during and after the
blooming period. The upper surface of the terminal leaf blades is
whitish green to whitish gray-blue. For the uppermost pair of leaves,
their joined leaf blades may be almost as wide as they are long.
2-5 sessile whorls of flowers develop along a short flowering stalk
from the uppermost pair of leaves. Sometimes secondary whorls of
flowers develop from short axillary stalks from the pair of leaves
immediately below the uppermost pair. Individual flowers are about 1"
long, consisting of a 2-lipped corolla that is pale yellow to
orange-yellow and a short tubular calyx. The upper lip of the corolla
of 4 short upright lobes, while the lower lip of the corolla consists
of a single recurved lobe. The base of the corolla is slightly swollen
on one side. Exerted from the throat of each corolla, there are 5
stamens and a single style with a knobby stigma. The filaments of the
stamens are nearly hairless, except for some sparse hairs below. The
blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer and lasts about
2-3 weeks. Depending on the orientation of the vine, some flowers may
dangle from their stalks upside down. The flowers are often fragrant.
They are replaced by berries that become about 6-7 mm. long at
maturity. At this time, they are orange-red to red, globoid-ovoid in
shape, and juicy. Each berry contains a few small seeds about 3 mm.
long. In the climate of Illinois, the leaves of this vine are deciduous.
The preference is full sun or partial sun, mesic conditions, and soil
containing loam, sand, or rocky material. Light shade is also
tolerated, but flowers may not develop.
native Grape Honeysuckle is occasional in northern and central
Illinois, but apparently absent from the southern section of the state.
Local populations of this vine may be in a state of decline because of
herbivory from the large population of White-Tailed Deer and because of
the reduced number of wildfires. Habitats consist of rocky upland
woodlands, thinly woody bluffs, wooded slopes, woodland borders,
savannas and sandy savannas, riverbanks, and thickets. Although it is
relatively uncommon in gardens, this woody vine is sometimes cultivated
as an ornamental plant.
The flowers of Grape Honeysuckle are
the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Hummingbird Clearwing moths (Hemaris
), bumblebees, Anthophorine bees (Anthophora spp.
long-tongued bees. Other floral visitors include Green Metallic bees
and Syrphid flies, which are less effective at cross-pollination
because of their small size and mouth parts. Grape Honeysuckle, like
other other native honeysuckles (Lonicera
), is a host plant of several
kinds of insects that feed on the foliage, suck plant juices, etc.
These insect feeders include the the caterpillars of such moths as
(Six-Plume Moth), Callizzia
(Snowberry Clearwing), Hemaris thysbe
(Hummingbird Clearwing), Homohadena
(Brown-Lined Sallow), Phyllonorycter fragilella
(Honeysuckle Moth). It also includes such aphids
and Hyadaphis foeniculi
(Honeysuckle Aphid); and
the larvae of Zaraea
(Honeysuckle Sawfly). Songbirds
occasionally eat the reddish berries, including the Cedar Waxwing,
Brown Thrasher, Catbird, Veery, Yellow-Breasted Chat, Purple Finch, and
various thrushes. The foliage of honeysuckle vines provide cover and
nesting habitat for various songbirds as well. White-Tailed
Deer browse on the foliage.
The Arboretum of the University of Illinois in
Some honeysuckles (Lonicera
) are shrubs, while others are woody
vines. In Illinois, Grape Honeysuckle is one of three native
honeysuckles that are woody vines: the other two species are Yellow
) and Limber Honeysuckle (Lonicera dioica
Grape Honeysuckle can be distinguished from these other species by the
conspicuous white bloom on the upper side of its terminal leaf blades
(where the flowers or berries occur). The whorls of flowers on its
terminal stalk are usually distinct, while the whorls of flowers of the
other two species are more crowded together. Unlike the flowers of
Grape Honeysuckle, it is not uncommon for the flowers of Limber
Honeysuckle to be tinted brick red or purple. The flowers of Yellow
Honeysuckle differ from those of Grape Honeysuckle by
lacking one-sided swellings at the bases of their corollas.
Another species, the introduced Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica
is also a woody
vine, except that it can become longer than the native species and it
is more aggressive. The berries of Japanese Honeysuckle are
purple-black, while those of native honeysuckle vines are
orange-red to red. A scientific synonym of Grape
Honeysuckle is Lonicera