Forgive me, but I'm terribly conflicted. I just walked by a plant that I love to see and smell in spring and hate to see anytime else. Japanese honeysuckle.


This rampant vine has probably engendered more fond childhood memories than any other plant. Remember when the sudden surprise of honeysuckle fragrance told you that spring was here? Remember pinching off the end of the flower, pulling the thread-like pistil through, and being rewarded with a drop of sweet nectar? No kid ever said anything bad about honeysuckle.

But kids grow up and then they see the real damage honeysuckle does. First sold in this country in 1823, Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) found the Southeast very much to its liking. It quickly escaped cultivation and spread into woods and countryside. It has blanketed our landscapes ever since. Growing fast as a Gulf oil slick, it coils around trunks, branches, fence posts, sleeping Congressmen, and anything else within reach. It smothers plants below it and strangles trees and bushes it climbs. Today, it's not uncommon to see whole woods entangled in honeysuckle vines. Hope there's some Congressmen in there.

Trumpet-shaped and sporting long, spidery stamens, the showy flowers emerge white and then turn yellow with age. I've always thought that flowers turned yellow to show they'd been pollinated, but I don't know that it's true.


Because it is such a noxious weed, you'd probably think nurseries wouldn't sell Japanese honeysuckle.You'd be wrong. I just looked in a plant catalog and found four varieties for sale, including a variegated one and a purple-leafed one. All of these varieties are just as roguish as the species. As I do not wish to contribute to planetary decline, I'm not telling which nursery it is.

You can kill this vine by spraying it according to label directions with Roundup, but you have to be careful not to spray any plant you don't want to kill. One way to get around this is to cut the top off a gallon milk jug, and fill it with Roundup mixed according to directions. Then scrunch as many of the stems and leaves into a ball as you can without tearing them from the plant and plunge them into the milk jug. Leave them there for a week. The plant will slowly absorb the chemical and die.

But do the sentimental Grump a favor. Don't dispatch honeysuckle while it's blooming. It's our childhood's smell of spring.


Sweet and Safe Magnolia


If you love the scent of honeysuckle blooms, then magnolia blooms are for you. The perfume is wonderful and the tree is well-behaved. To learn everything you've always wanted to know about growing this classic Southern tree, click here.