Halloween Hike at Castlewood

I visited Castlewood State Park, just outside of St. Louis, for a rejuvenating hike. Even though we’ve passed our peak for fall color, I brought along the camera.  And I’m glad I did!!

The lighting and shadow from the half-empty canopy made photography in the forest fun.

Understory Tragedy

A jewel in the rubble.  An oak leaf has fallen on this (evil) honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) shrub.

A dogwood, although I’m not certain if it’s a Flowering Dogwood or something else of the Cornus genus.

Part of the allure of Castlewood is it’s trail that runs along the edge of the Meramec River as well as on the bluffs a couple hundred feet above it.

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Honeysuckle of Doom!

We certainly love quick fixes.  We like things that take care of themselves.  Unfortunately, in the landscaping and agricultural world that can include  introducing non-native species into the environment without restraint or consideration of the consequences.  Luckily, many species cannot survive without human care.  But a few species can thrive without our care, and without natural predators; they become exotic, invasive, destructive species out of their ecological context.

I give you the Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii).  Bush Honeysuckle is ALL OVER urban St. Louis, often as a planted privacy screen, or for erosion control.  I suppose people like the smell of their flowers, though I’m fairly certain I’m allergic to invasives.  Unfortunately, Honeysuckle profusely produces berries that propagate everywhere (the forest, your yard, your neighbors yard).  They can even tolerant enough to shade out native trees and plants in forest understories.  They are allelopathic, too, meaning they produce chemicals that inhibit growth of other plants in their vicinity.

White/yellow flowers fill the understory.

The red berries they produce can feed birds.  Unfortunately, the berries are not as nutritious as that of many native berry producers.  In the end, birds get junky bird food and Honeysuckle seeds get a free ride.

WANTED:  DEAD OR ALIVE!

Many people battle honeysuckle, but removal can be difficult.  You must generally remove the entire plant and root system or cut the plant back to the stump, immediately paint it with glyphosate, and pray it doesn’t resprout.  I’ve found the removal of Honeysuckle to be very gratifying.  Something is therapeutic about stopping these evildoers with shovels, saws, and a little stump killer.  If it’s in your yard, just remember to replace it with something native to increase biodiversity, bird food, habitat, AND to help keep honeysuckle from returning.

Grow Native!