I have had several people in Harvey County asking about shrubs with bright red berries growing wild. The berries are clustered around the stem and the leaves are still a bright green color. These are likely one of two species of bush honeysuckle: Amur or Tatarian. Each species can reach 6 to 20 feet tall.
This landscape shrub has become a serious understory invasive throughout the Midwest from eastern Kansas to Ohio. Many states have it on their noxious weeds list. All of our native honeysuckles are vines, similar to the vining Japanese honeysuckle. Amur and Tatarian honeysuckles are very noticeable in the spring as they put out leaves earlier than most other trees and shrubs. Leaves also stay green much later into the fall. This long growing season gives it a competitive advantage over other native species, and the vigorous growth can take over a woodland understory, reducing the number of native woodland wildflowers and other shrubs. If you want to promote native species on your property, then controlling bush honeysuckles is needed. Honeysuckle seedlings can be readily hand pulled when the soil is damp.
Chemical control is needed for larger infestations, as cutting alone results in vigorous re-sprouting. Foliar applications of glyphosate (i.e., Roundup) in late summer and fall works well, as does applications of Crossbow (2,4-D + triclopyr). Treating cut stumps with Tordon RTU (picloram), or concentrated (20% to 50%) glyphosate is also quite effective. Several studies have shown basal spraying with triclopyr (Garlon) not to be effective, while basal applications with 2,4-D or picloram products work well, using an oil carrier to penetrate the bark. Please follow all label instructions when using pesticides.
— Scott Eckert is a Kansas State Research and Extension agent for Harvey County. Horticulture is his specialty. The Harvey County Extension Office can be contacted at 284-6930.