Tatarian Honeysuckle
Lonicera tatarica
Honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae)

Description: This multibranched shrub is 5-12' tall. The branches coming out of the ground are long and arching; they divide occasionally into smaller leafy branches, creating an irregular rounded crown. The bark of older branches is gray to grayish brown with narrow longitudinal ridges; with age, it becomes shaggy from shredded strips of bark The branches are often hollow and rather fragile. Young shoots are light green to reddish brown, glabrous to slightly pubescent, and terete. Pairs of opposite deciduous leaves occur along the shoots. Individual leaves are 1-2" long and -1" across; they are oval-ovate in shape and smooth along their margins. The base of each leaf is rounded to slightly cordate, while the tip tapers to a blunt point. The upper leaf surface is dull medium green, while the lower surface is pale green; both surfaces are hairless. The slender petioles are up to " long.

Pairs of white to rosy pink flowers develop from the upper axils of the leaves. Each pair of flowers has a slender pedicel about -1" long. Individual flowers are about " long and " across, consisting of a corolla with 5 lobes that are long and narrow, a small green calyx (" long or less) with 5 spreading lobes, 5 stamens with while filaments and yellow anthers, and a pistil with a single style. The stigma at the tip of the style is green and globoid. The corolla is narrowly tubular at the base, but flares outward into 5 spreading lobes that form poorly defined upper and lower lips. The two upper lobes are often joined together at the base. Underneath the calyx of each flower, there is a pair of small linear bracts and even smaller bractlets (bracteoles); they are green and hairless. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer and lasts about 3 weeks. The flowers have a sweet fragrance that is typical of honeysuckles. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by pairs of berries. At maturity, these berries are bright red with juicy flesh. Each berry is about " across and contains several small seeds. The woody root system is shallow and spreading. This shrub spreads primarily by reseeding itself.

Cultivation: This shrub prefers partial sun, mesic conditions, and a fertile loamy soil, but it is adaptable to other situations. The leaves unfold sooner than those of other shrubs during the spring, and they persist until late into the fall.

Range & Habitat: Tatarian Honeysuckle is a non-native shrub that has naturalized in many areas of Illinois. It is occasional in the northern half of Illinois, but still uncommon in southern half of the state (see Distribution Map). Habitats consist of deciduous woodlands, disturbed open woodlands, woodland borders, thickets, fence rows, and roadsides. This shrub is more common in suitable habitats near urban areas rather than rural areas. Although less aggressive than Lonicera maackii (Amur Honeysuckle), it is still invasive of natural areas, shading out ground vegetation and displacing native shrubs. Tartarian Honeysuckle was introduced into the United States from central Asia as a landscape plant. Notwithstanding its invasive tendencies, this shrub is still used as a landscape plant in various urban and suburban settings.

Faunal Associations: The flowers are pollinated by the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, hummingbird moths (Hemaris spp.), and various bees. Bees visitors include bumblebees, large carpenter bees, mason bees, leaf-cutting bees (Megachile spp.), and green metallic bees (Agapostemon spp., Augochlorella spp., etc.). These floral visitors are attracted to either the nectar, pollen, or both. Syrphid flies may feed on the pollen, but they are too small to be effective pollinators. Other insects feed on the leaves, plant juices, and other parts of honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.), although it is unclear to what extent this applies to non-native honeysuckle shrubs in most cases. These insect feeders include the aphids Alphitoaphis lonicericola, Gypsoaphis oestlundi, Hyadaphis foeniculi, and Hyadaphis tataricae. This last aphid causes "witch's broom" on Tatarian Honeysuckle. Other insect feeders include caterpillars of the moths Hemaris thysbe (Hummingbird Clearwing) and Hemaris diffinis (Snowberry Clearwing), and caterpillar-like larvae of the sawflies Zaraea americana and Zaraea inflata. The larvae of the wood-boring beetle, Agrilus cyanescens, bore through the branches of honeysuckle shrubs. Among vertebrate animals, the berries are eaten by Robins, Starlings, Cedar Waxwings, and other birds; the seeds are distributed to new areas in bird droppings. White-Tailed Deer appear to browse sparingly on honeysuckle shrubs. These shrubs provide good cover for various birds and mammals.

Photographic Location: Along a fence row in Urbana, Illinois.

Comments: In Illinois, this shrub should not be cultivated because it invades natural areas and reduces biodiversity. An effective biocontrol agent remains to be discovered. Tatarian Honeysuckle can be distinguished from other honeysuckle shrubs by the color of its flowers (when they are pink) and the lack of hairs on its leaves. During the fall, the berries of Tatarian Honeysuckle are held on pedicels about -1" long, while other honeysuckle shrubs often have shorter pedicels (" or less). There is at least one cultivar of Tatarian Honeysuckle that has reddish flowers.