Lonicera villosa (Mountain Fly Honeysuckle)

Plant Info
Also known as: Mountain Honeysuckle
Genus:Lonicera
Family:Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist to wet; swamps, fens, woods, thickets
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:1 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: tubular

[photo of flowers] Hanging pairs of flowers arising singly from leaf axils near the tips of 1-year-old branches. Flowers are 1/3 to ½ inch long, funnel-shaped, pale yellow to creamy white, with 5 flaring triangular lobes and a small hump at the base of the tube, on the outside edge. Emerging from the floral tube are 5 yellow stamens and a long, slender style with a dome-shaped stigma at the tip. Between the flowers and the stalk is a single large, oval ovary with a pair of linear bracts at the base that are longer than the ovary. The cluster stalk is up to ½ inch long and slender. Flowers, bracts and stalks are variously hairy, in long or short spreading hairs, or a mix.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are opposite, ¾ to 2½ inches long, up to 1 inch wide, generally elliptic widest at or near the middle, blunt or pointed at the tip, rounded to slightly tapered at the base, on a short stalk. Edges are toothless but fringed in fine hairs (ciliate).

[photo of leaf hairs] Upper surface is dark green and sparsely covered in stiff hairs, lower is paler than the upper and more densely hairy. Leaves often have a reddish cast early in the season.

[photo of hairy twig and branch with bark starting to shred] Twigs are green to purplish, hairy, and solid with a white pith. Older bark is brown to grayish and peeling in strips. Stems are mostly erect but branches may take root where they touch the ground, forming clonal plants.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is an oblong-elliptic berry about 3/8 inch long that ripens to blue-black with a waxy bloom, resembling a stretched-out blueberry and, rumor has it, tasting much like it.

Notes:

The paired flowers of Mountain Fly Honeysuckle much resemble those of Fly Honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis), but the latter has larger flowers, a separate ovary for each flower which produces a pair of bright red berries, plus its leaves are larger, proportionately wider, and are mostly hairless except around the edges. The taxonomy of Lonicera villosa, also known as Lonicera caerulea var. villosa, is rather confusing. The references that lump it with L. caerulea note there are several additional vars, but details on distinguishing them are poorly documented. According to Welby Smith's “Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota”, L. villosa is a maximum 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and some other references put it around 3 feet. Flora of China, one of the few reliable references for L. caerulea, puts L. caerulea at a max height of 8 feet (2.5m), but does not separate any vars. It also notes characteristics such as unusual branch buds and a stipule between leaf stalks that are not mentioned in other references. We encountered a large shrub (over 6 feet) in Duluth showing these characteristics but otherwise matching the description of L. villosa. Can we assume it is one of the other vars?

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Itasca, Lake and St. Louis counties.

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