Japanese Honeysuckle

Latin Name: Lonicera japonica

Flowers image by Zen

Flowers image by Zen

Origin: China, Japan and Taiwan.

Family: Caprifoliaceae.

Family: Oleaceae.

Known Hazards: The leaves contain saponins. Saponins are quite toxic but are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. They can be found in many common foods such as some beans. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will normally remove most of the saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Habitat: Thickets in hills, mountains. Woods in the mountains and lowlands.

Edibility Rating: 2 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Semi-deciduous scrambling or climbing shrub to 8 m high. Young stems with a covering of short, weak, dense hairs. Leaves opposite with a conspicuous ridge between opposite leaf stalks; ovate to about 7 cm long. Leaves sparsely hairy at first becoming hairless on upper surface with age. Fruit almost globe-shaped, 0.4–1 cm long, shiny black.
Flowers: In pairs, fragrant, white, some burgundy outside, turning cream to pale orange. Flowers mostly spring to autumn. The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Moths.

Fruits image by UrticaDistinguishing features: Distinguished by its climbing stems that are covered with dense, short hairs when young. Flower shape (see picture) and lobed leaves of juvenile growth.

Dispersal: Seeds dispersed by water and birds and locally by spreading stems.

Edible Uses

Flowers; Leaves. Leaves – cooked. The parboiled leaves are used as a vegetable. Some caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity. Flowers – sucked for their sweet nectar, used as a vegetable or made into a syrup and puddings. A tea is made from the leaves, buds and flowers.


Medicinal Uses

Antibacterial; Antiinflammatory; Antispasmodic; Antiviral; Depurative; Diuretic; Febrifuge. The stems and flower buds are alterative, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, depurative, diuretic, febrifuge. The plant is also used to reduce blood pressure. The stems are used internally in the treatment of acute rheumatoid arthritis, mumps and hepatitis. The stems are harvested in the autumn and winter, and are dried for later use. The stems and flowers are used together as an infusion in the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections (including pneumonia) and dysentery. An infusion of the flower buds is used in the treatment of a wide range of ailments including syphilitic skin diseases and tumours, bacterial dysentery, colds, enteritis, pain, swellings etc. Experimentally, the flower extracts have been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels and are antibacterial, antiviral and tuberculostatic. Externally, the flowers are applied as a wash to skin inflammations, infectious rashes and sores. The flowers are harvested in early morning before they open and are dried for later use. The plant has a similar action to Forsythia suspensa and is usually used in combination with that species to achieve a stronger action. This plant has become a serious weed in many areas of N. America, it might have the potential to be utilized for proven medical purposes.

Other Uses

Basketry; Ground cover; Insecticide. A very vigorous climbing plant, it makes a good dense ground cover plant where it has the space to run over the ground but it will swamp smaller plants. The sub-species L. japonica repens is especially used for this purpose on the continent. The cultivar ‘Halliana’ has also been recommended. This cultivar should be clipped back severely in the spring if it gets untidy, it responds well to such conditions. Plants should be spaced about 1 metre apart each way. The plant is said to be insecticidal. The stems have been used in making baskets.

Notes: Frequently cultivated in gardens and occasionally a serious weed of moist conservation areas.

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