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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Wednesday - April 24, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Shrubs
Title: Source for non-native, invasive Winter Honeysuckle from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Seeing Lonicera abiflora today reminds me of the "winter honeysuckle" my grandfather grew in San Antonio from 1920s or so through the 1950's. It was a bush with stiff upright stems and bloomed creamy white, fragrant flowers before it leafed out in the spring. It had little water beyond rain and good drainage. I con't remember the leaf structure. The flowers (forgive my lack of botanical terms) looked like Japanese honeysuckle or even salvia with longish petals, but this was a bush. Have never seen it anywhere else. I grow mostly natives, but in memory of this beloved man who grew yellow iris (I have them from his garden),wisteria, yellow Banksia roses, Cecile Brunner roses (I grow them, too), loquats, figs, coral vine,and more. You're my best shot at finding "winter honeysuckle." Thanks as ever for all you do.

ANSWER:

As you probably already know, the expertise of Mr. Smarty Plants is confined to plants native not only to North America but also to the area where the plant is being grown; in your case, Travis County, TX. Lonicera fragrantissima, Winter Honeysuckle is a shrub rather than a vine as are many of the other members of the Lonicera genus, and is native to China. As such, it would be of no use to you if we referred you to our native plant National Suppliers Directory. According to the Invasive Plant Atlas, it is evergreen in the South and can invade disturbed areas and woodlands, crowding out native plants. From that article:

"Sweet breath of spring (Lonicera fragrantissima) readily invades open woodlands, old fields and other disturbed sites. Its rapid spread is attributed to birds and mammals dispersing the seeds. It can form a dense understory thicket which can restrict native plant growth and tree seedling establishment."

Here is an article from Dave's Garden on Lonicera fragrantissima which has several negative comments on its invasiveness. At the top of that page, there is a link saying "8 vendors have this plant for sale." If you are that anxious to recover a memory from your grandfather's garden, you may find a mail order vendor for it, but remember, you were warned!

 

 

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