Himalayan Honeysuckle

Himalayan Honeysuckle, a non-native invasive plant species, is difficult to identify and remove. It can grow in a variety of conditions, such as wet or dry soil, sun or shade.

Being a multi-stemmed, upright shrub usually growing 1-2 m tall, but occasionally reaching up to 3 or even 4 m in height.

This blog post will provide an in-depth guide on what Himalayan Honeysuckle are, how they grow, and how to eradicate them from your garden.

Quick Facts

Common names: flowering nutmeg, toffee berry, Elisha’s tears, flowering nutmeg, Himalaya nutmeg, pheasant berry
Scientific name: Leycesteria formosa
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Origin: non-native
Flowering season: July to September
Habitat: wetlands, shrublands, streamsides, wasteland, wet areas and gardens

Himalayan Honeysuckle Identification

Himalayan Honeysuckle is a fragrant flowering plant that produces citrus-scented white flowers in the summer.

It’s identified by its 5 to 6 inches long leaves with serrated edges and yellowish-green undersides, as well as stems covered in soft hairs.

What does Himalayan Honeysuckle look like?

Characteristics that make up the Himalayan Honeysuckle leaf, stem, root and flower are detailed below.

The bush can grow 6 feet (1.8 m.) tall with a similar spread and is adorned with large heart-shaped leaves.

Stems and leaves a little like those of the un-related Himalayan Balsam

The green leaves of the Himalayan honeysuckle in early spring
The green leaves of the Himalayan honeysuckle in early spring

Leaves: The oppositely arranged leaves are dark green and borne on stalks (i.e. petioles) 5-20 mm long. These leaves (5 cm to 24 cm long and 2 cm to 12 cm wide) are egg-shaped in outline with tapering pointed tips.

They are minutely hairy and have entire or finely toothed margins. Their lower surfaces are usually somewhat paler than their upper surfaces.

The foliage varies from lime-green to greenish-yellow.

Stems: The relatively soft upright stems are hollow and greenish in colour. Younger stems are finely hairy

Deciduous or semi-evergreen, many-stemmed perennial shrub with straight, hairless round stems (1cm to 2 cm thick) that are hollow and green when young but become woody over time.

Roots: The roots grow in clusters; the rootstock consists of a fleshy main trunk (origin of the plant), and many thin smaller roots that branched out of it, looking like small, twisted tree branches.

The pendulous flowers of the Himalayan honeysuckle hanging down
The pendulous flowers of the Himalayan honeysuckle hanging down

Flowers: The flowers are borne in compact drooping clusters 5-10 cm long, and are surrounded by purplish leafy bracts (each about 2 cm long).

Each flower has five sepals, fused, and five petals fused for most of their length into a tube (i.e. corolla tube).

These tubular flowers (about 2 cm long) are white to purplish in colour and nearly equally five-lobed. They also have five stamens and an ovary topped with a style and stigma.

Flowers are borne on dense clusters of short reddish branches which droop under their weight.

Bell-shaped white flowers descend from brilliant scarlet bracts, lending the flowers an exotic appearance.

The white flowers opening up in early summer
The white flowers opening up in early summer

Fruits: The fruit is rounded to an egg-shaped berry that turns from green to dark red or purplish-black in colour as it matures.

These fruits (about 10 mm long) contain numerous small brown seeds (up to 1.5 mm long) that are oval or egg-shaped.

Each fruit contains more than 100 small seeds.

Himalayan honeysuckle purple-black berries with green leaves isolated on wood background close up. Other names Leycesteria formos
Himalayan honeysuckle purple-black berries with green leaves isolated on wood background close up. Other names Leycesteria formos

Himalayan Honeysuckle Seasonal Changes

Himalayan honeysuckles typically change seasonally so that they bloom during optimal times (typically a few weeks each) which changes based on where you’re at because it varies from location to location.

Himalayan Honeysuckle in Spring

The first sign of spring is when the blooming Himalayan honeysuckles send a vibrant scent into to air.

The rich, sweet smell fills your nose as you walk through the flowers in early April.

The leaves and petals are often mistaken for other plants, but they hold their own with beautiful white petals that frame delicate yellow centres

During the spring months, the flowers are white and yellow.

The leaves of the Himalayan honeysuckle mature in sunmmer to dark green
The leaves of the Himalayan honeysuckle mature in summer to dark green

Himalayan Honeysuckle in Summer

After hot dry summers, the leaves and stems may also turn reddish. The leaves turn from green to pink accents. The berries ripen to dark-purple then black.

During summer the white flowers open up and become ready to shed their seed
During summer the white flowers open up and become ready to shed their seed

Himalayan Honeysuckle in Autumn

The Himalayan honeysuckle plant has begun releasing its foliage as winter approaches with gusto – giving off crisp autumn smells.

The orange and yellow leaves and flowers fall from this shrub during this time.

Himalayan Honeysuckle in Winter

Dying back in winter before re-emerging next spring the leaves turn dark shades of purple.

The Himalayan honeysuckle turn to red in autumn
The Himalayan honeysuckle turn to red in autumn

How to get rid of Himalayan Honeysuckle

As a gardener, you may often find your garden and backyard invaded by weeds.

It might be easier to hire a professional, but there are some methods you can try at home.

One way is by burning the plant with an open flame or by cutting it down and burying its roots in the soil. Below we discuss the best options.

Method One – Herbicide Treatment

There are many methods to get rid of Himalayan honeysuckle, but the most efficient way may be by using herbicides. One can apply a solution directly on the leaves or cut them and spray with a cover-up that has been mixed in water for an extra punch.

You could also use it as mulch when landscaping around your property.

However not all weed killers are created equal; some can be toxic or chemical-filled so they should only be used carefully according to labels instructions

The use of glyphosate herbicide weed killer is best for killing this weed.

Method Two – Digging it out

Dig out this weed throughout the year to be able to remove it chemical-free.

Push a narrow trowel or knife into the ground next to the taproot. Carefully loosen the soil.

Repeat this step around the taproot. Grasp stem at ground level, rock plant backwards and forwards and pull gently. Tap the roots carefully to dislodge the soil.

Replace disturbed soil and pat down lightly.

Close-up image of Himalayan honeysuckle flowers and foliage
Close-up image of Himalayan honeysuckle flowers and foliage

Himalayan Honeysuckle Management

The Himalayan honeysuckle weed is notoriously difficult to eliminate, but it can be eliminated with the right treatment plan and some patience.

One of these treatments includes digging up all visible roots in late autumn or early spring followed by a mixture of herbicides that will kill any new shoots coming out for 2-3 years after application.

This process should be repeated every year thereafter until there are no more plants left above ground level.

Managing this pesky plant starts when you first notice its presence on your property – take action then. It’s much easier to get rid of weeds before they have time to spread their seeds around and grow back again next season.

In Conclusion

The Himalayan honeysuckle weed is a sneaky and difficult-to-manage plant that grows quickly.

A recent study found the most effective way to manage this pesky menace was by using glyphosate on young plants, which will stunt their growth into adulthood before they can take over your garden.

We hope this article has provided the necessary insight into identifying the weed and giving you some idea of how best you wish to tackle it.