Lonicera villosa (Mountain Fly Honeysuckle)

Plant Info
Also known as: Mountain Honeysuckle
Family:Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle)
Life cycle:perennial woody
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.


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.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Sherman - Duluth
on: 2019-07-26 10:36:04

My neighbor a little ways down the road and across the street, asked me if I could identify a little bush growing underneath a young spruce tree next to their driveway. I had never seen this plant before, but it had some similarity to a honeysuckle, which grow wild around here. I guessed that it MIGHT be some kind of Honeysuckle. When it bloomed a few weeks later, the twin pale yellowish flowers and hairy leaves and twigs narrowed it down to Mountain Fly Honeysuckle. the small oblong blue berries that later developed didn't taste good. A few years later, about 3 blocks away I spotted a five foot tall one of these, growing in a tall hedge of Tartarian Honeysuckle. Those two are the only ones that I've ever seen.

Posted by: Courtney Kerns - Grand Rapids
on: 2020-06-03 16:15:47

There is a nicely fruiting shrub of this species growing alongside the road adjacent to a bog just north of Grand Rapids. The bog itself is nutrient-poor, but more nutrient-loving plants grow on the slightly elevated roadside. I once had three cultivated honeyberry (Lonicera caerula) bushes and it would be hard to tell them apart from this wild species. If people are seeing them in (sub)urban settings, they’re probably planted honeyberries?

Posted by: John - Houston County
on: 2023-09-06 18:04:44

If the taxonomy is confusing with Lonicera villosa and Lonicera caerulea, could that imply that they are both the same species or that they can cross easily? If so, is Lonicera villosa just the wild form of lonicera caerulea? Both are edible, so it would make sense. If so, wouldn't that make it all Native regardless of what Species name is used? It's Native range is huge! Based on the Phylogenic Trees I looked at, Lonicera villosa doesn't get Mentioned/Distinguished separately from Lonicera caerulea.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-09-07 08:28:16

John, we just report the taxonomy accepted in Minnesota. It is not unusual for some botanists to lump species or vars together and others to split them into separate species. A geneticist might be able to give a definitive answer but we don't have that level of skill or knowledge.

Posted by: John - Houston County
on: 2023-09-11 00:04:50

So... continue Planting Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea) along with Lonicera villosa, Since both are still Native right? Because in the trunk photo, you mentioned the possible non native lonicera caerulea? That's why I got confused, how can one be Native but not the other?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-09-11 12:51:10

John, L. caerulea is not considered native here.

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