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Coral Honeysuckle

CAROLINA GROWN

Lonicera-sempervirens-Coral-Honeysuckle

 

Coral Honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

Photo: Dr. Robert Polomski


Whenever I write or speak about coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), I rankle someone who immediately assumes that all honeysuckles behave like Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), an invasive, noxious weed that has escaped cultivation and has become an ecological threat. For the record: coral honeysuckle is not a thug. In fact, this semi-evergreen twining vine attracts both people and wildlife.
 
I have witnessed coral or trumpet honeysuckle blooming for up to 9 months in full sun locations. Its two-inch long, scarlet to orange-red tubular flowers with yellow throats are hummingbird magnets. The most common visitor to the Carolinas, the ruby-throated hummingbird, along with the black-chinned and rufous hummingbirds, use their long needlelike bills and specially adapted tongues to satisfy their tremendous appetites on sugar-rich nectar (hummingbirds consume more than half their weight in food each day).
 
Trumpet honeysuckle flowers attract butterflies and moths; songbirds, such as purple finch, goldfinch, American robin, hermit thrush, and quail, relish its juicy red berries. The bluish-green leaves serve as a larval host for the spring azure butterfly and the snowberry clearwing or bumblebee moth. Interestingly, deer show little culinary interest in coral honeysuckle.
 
A few exceptional cultivars selected for their darker colored flowers and extended floral displays include ‘Cedar Lane’ and ‘Major Wheeler.’
 
Consider adorning trellises, split-rail fences, and arbors with this carefree majestic vine. Coral honeysuckle nurtures my spirit and sustains wildlife.

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Writer's note: I would not recommend consuming the fruit of this native vine. However, there are other edible species of Lonicera that friends of mine are cultivating. Honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea) is a popular edible honeysuckle. See honeyberryusa.com/about-honeyberry.html.