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Wilson's Honeysuckle

Lonicera nitida

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle)
Evergreen shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
180 centimetres tall
Gardens, hedgerows, rocky places, scrub, wasteland, woodland.

White, 5 petals
Small, yellowish-cream, tubular flowers appear in pairs at leaf axils.
Violet-coloured berries in autumn.
An evergreen shrub with opposite leaves at right angles along the stems. The simple, oval leaves are small and untoothed.
Fragrant flowers.
Other Names:
Box Honeysuckle, Boxleaf Honeysuckle, Dwarf Honeysuckle, Privet Honeysuckle, Shrubby Honeysuckle.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Lonicera nitida, also known as dwarf honeysuckle, is a species of honeysuckle that is native to Japan and China. It is a compact, evergreen shrub that typically grows up to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It is characterized by its small, glossy green leaves and its dense, twiggy growth habit. The plant produces small, tubular flowers that are typically white or yellow in color. The flowers bloom in late spring and early summer, and are followed by small, black berries that are attractive to birds.

Lonicera nitida is a popular garden plant and is often used as a hedge, ground cover, or in rock gardens. It is hardy, easy to grow and tolerant of most soil types, but it does prefer well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. It is also valued for its ornamental and ecological value, it is often used in wildlife gardens and as a naturalizing plant in woodlands and hedgerows. It is not considered invasive and is a good alternative for gardeners who want to enjoy the benefits of honeysuckle without the invasive nature of other Lonicera species. It is also used in bonsai and topiary arts.


Wilson's honeysuckle, scientifically known as Lonicera nitida, is a popular evergreen shrub that belongs to the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae. It is native to Western China but is now widely cultivated and naturalized in many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, and Australia.

Appearance and Characteristics

Wilson's honeysuckle is a fast-growing, densely branched shrub that typically grows up to 3-6 feet tall and wide. The leaves are small, glossy, and dark green, and the branches are woody and reddish-brown in color. The plant blooms in late spring or early summer, producing fragrant, small, white or yellowish flowers that are clustered in pairs at the end of the branches. The flowers are followed by small, round, black berries that are edible but not very palatable.

Cultivation and Uses

Wilson's honeysuckle is a popular ornamental shrub, grown for its attractive foliage, fragrant flowers, and ability to form dense hedges or screens. It is relatively easy to grow and prefers well-drained soils in full sun to partial shade. It is tolerant of a wide range of soil types, including clay, loam, and sandy soils, and is also drought-tolerant once established.

In addition to its ornamental uses, Wilson's honeysuckle has also been used for medicinal purposes in traditional Chinese medicine. The leaves and stems of the plant are believed to have diuretic, antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory properties and have been used to treat various ailments, including fever, sore throat, and urinary tract infections.

Potential Risks

While Wilson's honeysuckle is generally considered to be a harmless plant, there are some potential risks associated with its cultivation and spread. The plant is highly invasive in some areas, particularly in North America, where it has escaped cultivation and is now considered a noxious weed in several states. It can form dense thickets that outcompete native vegetation, alter soil chemistry, and reduce biodiversity. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the potential risks before planting Wilson's honeysuckle and to ensure that it is not allowed to spread beyond its intended location.


Wilson's honeysuckle can be propagated from both seeds and cuttings. Seeds should be sown in the fall or spring, while cuttings should be taken in late summer or early fall. To take cuttings, select healthy stems from the current year's growth and remove the lower leaves. Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone and plant it in a well-draining soil mix. Keep the soil moist and place the cutting in a warm, bright location until roots have formed.


Wilson's honeysuckle responds well to pruning and can be shaped into a variety of forms, including hedges, topiaries, and standards. Prune the plant in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. Remove any dead or damaged branches, and thin out any crossing or crowded stems. To encourage bushier growth, pinch back the tips of new growth.

Pests and Diseases

Wilson's honeysuckle is generally resistant to pests and diseases. However, it can be susceptible to aphids, spider mites, and powdery mildew. Regular inspection and treatment with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil can help prevent infestations. Proper watering and good air circulation can also help prevent powdery mildew.

Cultural Significance

In traditional Chinese culture, Wilson's honeysuckle is associated with good fortune and longevity. It is often used in Chinese New Year celebrations and is believed to bring luck and prosperity to the household. In Western culture, the plant is sometimes used as a symbol of love and devotion, as the fragrant flowers are said to represent the sweetness of love.

Some Facts about Wilson's Honeysuckle

Here are some additional facts about Wilson's honeysuckle:

  • The scientific name of Wilson's honeysuckle, Lonicera nitida, is derived from the Latin words "lonicera," which means "honeysuckle," and "nitidus," which means "shiny" or "glossy." This refers to the plant's glossy leaves.

  • Wilson's honeysuckle is named after the British botanist, Ernest Henry Wilson, who first introduced the plant to the Western world in the early 20th century.

  • The plant is sometimes called "box honeysuckle" or "Wilson's box honeysuckle" because its dense, evergreen foliage and ability to be shaped into hedges or topiaries make it a popular alternative to boxwood.

  • Wilson's honeysuckle is a popular plant for attracting wildlife, particularly birds. The berries are a food source for many species, including thrushes, robins, and waxwings.

  • In addition to its ornamental and medicinal uses, Wilson's honeysuckle has also been used in traditional Chinese cuisine. The young leaves and shoots are used in salads, stir-fries, and soups, while the berries are sometimes used in jams and preserves.

  • Wilson's honeysuckle is not only popular with wildlife, but it is also a favorite of gardeners and landscapers for its low maintenance requirements, tolerance of a wide range of conditions, and attractive appearance.

  • In some regions where Wilson's honeysuckle is invasive, efforts are being made to control its spread. This includes manual removal, herbicide treatments, and the introduction of natural predators, such as goats and sheep, to help control the plant's growth.

Overall, Wilson's honeysuckle is a versatile and attractive plant that can be a valuable addition to gardens and landscapes. While it is important to be aware of its potential risks and take appropriate measures to prevent its spread, the plant's beauty, fragrance, and versatility make it a popular choice for many gardeners and landscapers around the world.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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