CAPRIFOLIACEAE (Honeysuckle) Wildflowers of the Escambia

 

Honeysuckle is mostly shrubs, sometimes vines or herbs. Usually with showy flowers in a branched or forked cluster. There are about 15 genera and at least 400 species in the world residing primarily in northern temperate regions and tropical mountains. Just a few that are prevalent in the Escambia region will be treated here.

The most invasive of honeysuckle is the Japanese Honeysuckle; widely believed that it produces white and yellow flowers at the same time; that is in error. Simply put, the flowers turn yellow with age and are generally present at the time new blossoms are produced.

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Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
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Variegated Flower of Japanese Honeysuckle (L. japonica)
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Coral Honeysuckle (L. sempervirens)
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These honeysuckles came to us from Asia, which purpose was to be used as orna-
mental trellis climbers but when they escaped to the open woods they quickly be-
came pests. Kudzu is another case on point. These plants (except Coral Honeysuckle) are extremely difficult to eradicate from the domestic garden or field, thus its transplantation is not encouraged. The blossoms produce a sweet nectar that children love to suck from the flower tube.

Coral Honeysuckle is a perennial plant that sends forth long trailers; depending on a host shrub or tree for support. Coral is, for the most part, a deep woods, thicket and roadside plant which has not been a problem either in the wild or in the butter-
fly garden. The vine is sometimes called Mailbox Honeysuckle or Trumpet Honeysuckle. This showy wild flower is red outside, yellow inside and is borne in several whorled clusters at the end of new growth stems. If you have a plant in your garden it may be prudent to prune it back each year, which will cause more new stems on which to promote blossom production and to ensure a fresh crop of flowers throughout the year. This beautiful climbing vine attracts hummingbirds throughout the year.

The most unusual of our wild honeysuckle is the Variegated Flower Japanese Honeysuckle, which does have multi-colored blossoms that sometimes appear on a single stem. The variegated is found in large clusters along secondary roads and fence rows and it is especially fond of being at the margin of cypress bogs. It appears that the Variegated Flower Honeysuckle is not a hybrid of the Japanese and Coral Honeysuckle.

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Possumhaw Viburnum (Viburnum nudum)
Preferred habitat is moist to wet sites; open to shady. This small shrub is common in forests, bogs and bays. Its a deciduous upright shrub with opposite leaves and a branching crown. There are at least 11 species in the southeast. Flowers are in flat-topped clusters that oc-
cur from April to May; fruit matures in the autumn. This shrub is naturalized from Texas to central Florida.
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Maple-Leaved Viburnum (V. acerfolium)
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Maple-Leaved Viburnum is a small shrub with maple-like leaves and small, white flowers of uniform size in flat-topped clusters. This autumn colors of this shrub make it one of the more handsome autumn plants. Its preferred habitat is scrub uplands and in hardwood forests. Flowering extends over a long period from spring to late summer. If you have any doubts about whether or not you have correctly identified the shrub look at the underside of its leaf and if you find a series of minute black dots then you have arrived. Fruit is a blue-black cherry-like drupe.
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Florida Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
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Elderberry is also known as Florida Elder and Florida Elderberry. It has a smooth stem and compound leaves (like sumac) and flat-topped clusters of tiny, white, fragrant flowers. Its preferred habitat is low ground, wet areas, and the border of fields and copses.

This soft, woody species yields fruit which makes tasty jelly and table wine. It is also an important food source for songbirds and game birds. The genus name comes from Greek sambuce, a musical instrument, and refers to the soft pith, easily removed from the twigs and used to make flutes and whistles.

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