Honeysuckle Season and Seasonings
A Sweet Surprise for Late Spring to Early Summer
by Marcia Wilson
Honeysuckles are named honestly. This flowering vine has a sweet-tasting nectar inside the trumpet-shaped blossoms. As long as they have known how, children have fondly plucked up the flowers and sucked the insides out like a straw for a quick, sugary snack. Botany can be a confusing world, but calling this vine the honeysuckle is thankfully easy to understand.
North America is home to about 11% of the world’s honeysuckle species. The ones native to Washington State are not considered aggressive and many forms of wildlife call the tangle of vines home, food, or both. For the landowner plagued with honeysuckle both native and non-native, natural control like goats are often used to “eat the problem”.
Honeysuckle blossoms feed insects and hummingbirds, but the berries are also a precious meal for birds like our Cedar Waxwings. Waxwings are fructivores, dependent on fruit for their diet. Other birds like the House Finch may find their feathers a brighter shade of red after eating the berries.
Insect-eating birds stay close to the vines.
Two of the most spectacular of the birds who enjoy residency by the vines must be the Anna’s Hummingbird and the Western Tanager. Pierce County lists the Anna’s Hummingbird as uncommon to find but in the CPTC Outdoor Lab they are actually more common than the Rufous. Habitat, with plenty of supporting shelter, is the key to wildlife success. Every year the students and staff who wander too close to the Western Honeysuckle patch find themselves scolded by the territorial Anna’s.
A Splash of Color
Two different species of the Pacific Northwest’s native honeysuckle have been identified at the CPTC outdoor lab. The first and most spectacular one is the Western Honeysuckle. It is also called Trumpet Honeysuckle, Orange Honeysuckle, and Western Trumpet. The vines can reach about Six meters tall, which is about the height of a small tree. The flowers are comparatively large and the color of a bold scarlet sunset.
The second species is called the Hairy Honeysuckle, or Coral Honeysuckle. It blooms after the Western Honeysuckle and sports a delicate shade of pink and lavender. Perhaps not as dramatic in beauty, it is still a valuable part of our ecology.