Northern Bush Honeysuckle is small native perennial deciduous shrub that is not a true honeysuckle. It grows from 1 to 3 feet high and up to 4 feet wide, on densely branched slender stems that are greenish-red as twigs, turning light brown. Older thicker stems have a bark that is gray to light-reddish brown that becomes shreddy. Twig buds are very small. Branches run close to the ground and slightly ascend.
Leaves are opposite, in pairs, oblong with pointed tip and with fine teeth and have attractive fall color. The upper surface is green and smooth, the underside paler. Some plants may have leaves that take on a bronze color, particularly near the tips.
The inflorescence is a small panicle of stalked flowers, usually in threes, from either the leaf axils or at the end of a branch.
Flowers are trumpet shape with a 3/4 inch long by 1/2 inch wide yellow corolla, with five stamens, a single pistil and a style that has a knob-like tip; the bases of the stamens are hairy. The tips of the five petals of the corolla spread outward and reflex. One of the petals has a distinct deeper yellow marking. Flowers can also be reddish in color on the same plant with the yellow flowers. The flowers are self-sterile and must have an adjacent plant for fruit production.
Fruit: Fertile flowers produce a dry woody vase shaped capsule with the remnants of the long style and the filaments at the tip. The capsule splits open to release its seed. Seeds need 90 of cold stratification for germination and they also need light. As they are very small they should be surface sown.
Habitat: The plant can make a good ground cover due to its suckering habit, which precludes if from being a landscape specimen, but unlike honeysuckles that are in the genus Lonicera, it is not considered invasive. It grows best in cooler regions that have mesic to dry upland sites but can adapt to sandy or gravelly soil. It is tolerant of various light levels. It grows from a rhizomatous root system which causes it to spread. Suckers may be transplanted to start new plants. The species is the larval host for the Fawn Sphinx Moth (Sphinx kalmiae).
Names: The genus name, Diervilla, is an honorary for N. Dierville, a French 17th Century doctor who is said to have introduced the species to Europe after finding the plant in Canada. The species name, lonicera, is also an honorary and refers to Adam Lonitzer (1528-1586), a German herbalist and the name is also used as the genus name for the true honeysuckles. Botanists have debated for years whether certain species of the subfamily Diervilleae should be in the Honeysuckle family (the Caprifoliaceae). Recently 16 species have been separated into the new family Diervillaceae. (See Taxon 47, Aug. 1998). The author name for the plant description - "Mill." is for Philip Miller, Scottish botanist (1691-1771) who was chief gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden and wrote "The Gardener's Dictionary".
Above: 1st photo - Details of the small flowers which occur in groups of up to three at the end of new growth branches; 2nd photo - the leaves which are opposite and have a finely toothed edge.
Above & Below - Flower Details: Flowers have five stamens and a single pistil and style that has a knob-like tip; the bases of the stamens are hairy. The tips of the five petals of the corolla spread outward and reflex. One of the petals has a distinct deeper yellow marking.
Below: While the flowers are usually yellow, a reddish color flower can appear on the same plant as shown on the example below from the Upland Garden on 7/06/2011.
Below: Grouping of plants. Photo ©Gary Fewless, University of Wisconsin.
Below: Drawing from Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.
Notes: Eloise Butler first recorded introducing Northern Bush Honeysuckle to the Garden on Sept. 4, 1909 with plants obtained from Appleton ME during her summer visit to that local. On May 8, 1910 she planted two additional planted secured from Osceola, WI and again on July 30, 1911 more plants were obtained from a local source. Three more from the Park Board Nursery on Oct. 28, 1914. They were present in the Garden in a census taken in 1926. This plant was also listed on Martha Crone's 1951 inventory of plants in the Garden at that time. It was planted near the Shelter in 2016. It is native to counties in Minnesota that are in the eastern 2/3 rds of the state north of the metro area, and south of the metro it is found in the SE Counties. It is the only species of Diervilla found in Minnesota.
In North America it is found from North Dakota and Minnesota eastward to the coast and south as far as the Ohio Valley and then a few other southern states near the coast. In Canada it is found from Saskatchewan eastward.
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"