Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lonicera japonica

Coming back from the Astoria Beer Garden (the old one, not the new one), I encountered this fragrant honeysuckle thriving on an iron fence.

I have a soft spot for this plant, Lonicera japonica, primarily because I remember it from when I was a kid and, for a few years, was living on the Jersey shore. Our house abutted a salt marsh and was in a yet-t0-be-totally-developed area. We had an empty lot between our house and the neighbors' and a large honeysuckle had taken up residence there, growing on top of itself in massive heaps.

I'm not sure who told me, but I knew that you could pull out the stigma and, if your hand was steady enough, taste the droplet of nectar that came with it. It's incredibly, dizzyingly sweet. Of course the flowers, which slowly change from white to gold, have a wonderfully heady fragrance, too.

And yes: this plant is indeed quite invasive. You certainly would not want to plant it in an area where it can invade woodlands (or empty lots for that matter). But I don't think it's too sinful to enjoy a nostalgic moment in Astoria, when this particular specimen is unlikely to cause any larger environmental damage.


Then again, maybe not. After a bit more reading on, I read that the original Lonicera japonica was brought to the North American continent via Queens. Oops.

Lonicera is named for a 16th century botanist, Adam Lonitzer.


HB said...

That brings back memories of sitting in the bleachers by the baseball field, plucking flower after flower for the tiny drops of sweetness. Did you know that the blossom changes color as a signal to pollinators that the flower has been visited already?

Jennifer G. Horn said...

NO! That's fantastic information!

Thanks so much for telling me!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Philadelphia, in the city. This was the only fragrance I remember in the summer.

Mike Scullin said...

I ran across your site while looking for the possibility of L. japonica living in central North Dakota. But I was distracted by finding someone interested in NYC plants. I am especially interested in invasives found growing in "vacant" lots and in cracks along the paving. I think it was in 1991 that I was visiting, and we all went to the top of the WTC. There in the gutter was growing a cottonwood about six inches tall.

Not long ago I tried to get the National Park Service interested in doing a flora of Ellis Island which, I think, probably has a few invasives which have not made it to the mainland. I received no response. Mike