Campaign urges Missourians to stop the spread of invasive plant

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BOONE COUNTY - Bill Ruppert came out to his farm near Ashland Sunday with one mission - getting rid of bush honeysuckle. The plant may smell sweet, but bush honeysuckle is a serious problem for Missouri, according to a new campaign.

"As you can see, it's taking over a lot of my property," he said. "You have to fight it year round."

Magnificent Missouri is a group that advocates conservation and environmental efforts in Missouri. It created Stop-honeysuckle.org to raise awareness about the non-native plant's invasion into Missouri.

According to Stop-honeysuckle.org, bush honeysuckle will kill all other plants and wildflowers. Once it's been established, it's basically impossible to get rid of.

Magnificent Missouri founder Dan Burkhardt said not all honeysuckle is bad.

"It's not the native-to-Missouri honeysuckle we're worried about. This invasive, bush type comes from Eastern Asia. It was originally introduced in America for landscaping purposes, because it creates a thicket that's useful for privacy," he said.

He said bush honeysuckle is especially easy to identify in the fall.

"This time of year, bush honeysuckle will have berries near where the leaves start on the plant," he said. "And it can be anywhere from usually 6 to 20 feet tall."

Ruppert said part of the problem is that bush honeysuckle can grow easily.

"It spreads like wildfire. And that's mostly because it can grow in both the sun and the shade," he said.

Ruppert said he's been fighting bush honeysuckle in the Kirkwood area of St. Louis for a while, but that it's now also an issue at Fox Hollow Forest in Ashland.

The prime time to fight bush honey suckle is right now, according to Burkhardt. "The fall months, that's when it's best to go after it," he said.

For Ruppert, that means pulling out the smaller bushes by hand. For the larger bushes, Ruppert has a different approach.

"I cut the big ones as close to the ground as possible, and then treat them with a brushed-on herbicide concentrate."

That's also the method that Stop-honeysuckle.org suggests. In particular, the website suggests using 20% glyphosate solution as herbicide. Glyphosate can be found in the brand name weed killers Roundup and Rodeo.

The website also suggests controlled burns to eradicate bush honeysuckle in areas where it is safe to do so. But it warns that sometimes, bush honeysuckle can manage to survive even when all other plants burn.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, it may be necessary to burn annually or biennially for five years or more to completely rid an area of bush honeysuckle.

"Here at Fox Hollow Farm," Ruppert said, "I think my bush honeysuckle problem isn't so bad that I'd consider doing a lot of fire setting."

Whatever the method for controlling bush honeysuckle, Burkhardt said raising awareness is key.

"If we all know what bush honeysuckle looks like, why it's so bad for Missouri, and how we can stop it, I think we can halt the spread," he said.

For more information about how you can stop the spread of bush honeysuckle, go to the stop-honeysuckle.org website.

 

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