Posted by: tysonrc | March 12, 2010

hey, fresh leaves!

Normally, when things start leafing out, it is a time to rejoice.  While scouring the forest floor for the first blooming and native flower today, I came across a shrub that was putting out leaves already. 

honeysuckle tries to be sneaky

 

The problem with these specific leaves is that they belong to Lonicera mackii, or bush honeysuckle.  This exotic invasive plant does large amounts of damage to the diversity of the Missouri woodlands.  Honeysuckle grows thick together and shades out the forest floor and this keeps other plants from getting the light they need to grow and reproduce.  One of the big problems with this plant is that it leafs out so early.  It is so greedy for all the light it can get that it puts leaves out before almost anything else.  

Many of our early spring wildflowers live in the deep woodland where the early spring is the only time when they can get enough light to grow quickly, bloom quickly, put out some seed and die back before the trees put on a thick canopy of leaves and begin to shade the forest floor.  Honeysuckle destroys these plants plans on trying to get a miniscule amount of light by leafing out early, sometimes before they even come up. 

Bush honeysuckle does take one big risk with its early leaf out technique.  when it is the only thing in the forest with leaves, it is the only thing in the forest with leaves!  get it?  It is very easy to see and kill when it is the only green shrub in miles of woods.  This same technique to spot honeysuckle works equally well in the fall because this noxious weed holds its leaves well into the fall.  Many methods exist to kill honeysuckle with most of them revolving around cutting and spraying herbicide on the stump.  It is also very easy to yank these buggers out of the ground because they have puny, inadequate root systems.  (it’s important to mock bush honeysuckle) 

Even though I never came across any blooming native plants, I did find one blooming flower, although it is an introduced plant from europe called microthlaspi perfoliatum.  It’s a tiny little plant and it doesn’t readily invade areas and destroy them like honeysuckle does.  In the photo, the blooms are not fully open, but that is because it was cloudy and raining when the picture was taken. 

one of the earliest blooming, albeit exotic, flowers

An interesting point I noticed while going through the files today is that we are almost two weeks behind last year in flower phenology.  Last year at this time, we had many species that bloomed on this day.  Some of these species were toothwort, trillium, false rue anemone and spring beauty.  With the exception of spring beauty, none of those plants have even begun emerging from the soil and it will be almost two weeks before they bloom. 

so, we wait. 
If you go out looking from spring ephemerals and get frustrated because you don’t see any,  just rip up some honeysuckle; it is a great way to vent that frustration. 
–Travis Mohrman
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