Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from Japan, Korea and China, Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) has become a serious environmental weed in southern Australia, especially common in New South Wales, Victoria and southern Queensland.
  • It is a robust scrambler or climber with 10 m long stems that smothers and out-competes native vegetation and prevents the regeneration of native species.
  • Japanese Honeysuckle spreads by bird-dispersed seeds and by long vegetative runners that can form roots when they contact the ground.
  • Control of Japanese Honeysuckle requires an integrated program utilising various methods including manual removal, mowing or grazing, burning and herbicide application.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is an evergreen or weakly deciduous scrambler or climber reaching about 10 m high, often very dense. The young stems are purplish and densely hairy; older stems are brown and hairless. The leaves are dark green on the upper surface and paler below, mostly 3–8 cm long and 1–4 cm wide, and arranged on the stems in opposite pairs. They are more or less oval in shape without teeth with even (smooth) margins or occasionally deeply-lobed margins in younger leaves. Young leaves are usually hairy on main veins and margins; older leaves are virtually hairless.

The tubular fragrant flowers are 2–3 cm long, 2-lipped, often hairy, white often tinged pink or purple, turning yellow or orange with age, fragrant and borne in pairs at leaf bases. Flowers are produced mainly between June and January and followed by oval, shiny black berries, 6–10 mm long.

The berries mature in summer and autumn (Jeanes 1999; Muyt 2001; VicFlora 2016).

For further information and assistance with identification of Japanese Honeysuckle contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour

Yellow, White, Purple, Orange, Pink

Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Japanese Honeysuckle invades disturbed sites in forests, woodlands, heathlands and along streams, including small remnants in urban areas. It generally favours moist sites in areas where annual rainfall exceeds 600 mm (Jeanes 1999; Muyt 2001). In  NSW and QLD it is naturalised near rainforests and other closed forests, particularly those close to habitation. It also grows in riparian areas, disturbed sites and waste areas in wetter temperate, sub-tropical and tropical regions. It does require higher rainfall so in drier areas it is found along creeklines and drains. 

Are there similar species?

Japanese Honeysuckle is unlikely to be confused with any Australian native or other naturalised species when in flower. Non-flowering plants may appear similar to other climbers with leaves in opposite pairs such as some native members of the Asclepiadaceae and Apocynaceae families including Milk Vine (Marsdenia rostrata), Yellow Milk Vine (Marsdenia flavescens), Bearded Tylophora (Tylophora barbata) and Silkpods (Parsonsia species) (Reid 2007, pers. obs.). It can also be confused with the other introduced honeysuckles;  winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima); and European honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum). 

Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is an upright shrubby plant with hairless (i.e. glabrous) younger stems. Its flowers are borne in pairs in the leaf forks and its mature fruit are red in colour. 

European honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) is a climber or scrambling shrubby plant with hairy (i.e. pubescent) reddish-coloured younger stems. Its flowers are borne in dense clusters at the tips of the branches and its mature fruit are red in colour.

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Japanese Honeysuckle is a weed of native environments and toxic to humans causing discomfort and irritation but is not life threatening.It forms dense, long-lived masses and tolerates moderate-shade, frost, salt, damage, wet or dry, most soils, high to low temperature. Very long stems layer profusely, with moderate-fast growth rate.

Agriculture: Not a known weed of agriculture, can be present in vegetation around margins of paddocks.

Native ecosystems: Japanese Honeysuckle is a highly invasive environmental weed that is capable of smothering and out competing native vegetation by climbing over shrubs, up tree branches and across ground flora to form extensive suckering mats which also prevent further regeneration of native species. This process results in a significant reduction in the diversity of native flora (Muyt 2001; GISD 2005) and associated fauna. It is a very serious threat to native vegetation in heathland and heathy woodland, damp sclerophyll forest, wet sclerophyll forest, warm temperate rainforest and along streams (Carr et al. 1992). In NSW and Queensland it is also weedy and naturalised in or near rainforests and other closed forests, particularly those close to habitation. It also grows in riparian areas, distrubed sites and waste areas in wetter temperate, sub-tropical and tropical regions (Brisbane City Council 2021). 

Urban environments: Can escape gardens and establish in semi-urban environments and roadside vegetation. 

Human impacts: Japanese honeysuckle is toxic to humans, causing discomfort and irritation but is not life threatening. The berries and leaves are poisonous if ingested, causing gastro-intestinal irritation. It is also a skin irritant causing rashes on contact with the plant.

What to do if poisoning occurs:

  • If the patient is unconscious, unresponsive or having difficulty breathing dial 000 or get to the emergency section of a hospital immediately.
  • If the patient is conscious and responsive call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or your doctor.
  • If going to a hospital take a piece of the plant for identification.

How does it spread?

Japanese Honeysuckle reproduces vegetatively and by seed. Seeds are spread mostly by birds when they eat the berries and excrete the seeds, and are also dispersed by water and in garden refuse (Muyt 2001; GISD 2005). Vegetative reproduction is by long twining vegetative runners that can produce roots wherever they come in contact with soil resulting in dense mats of plants. When runners from a single parent plant have established roots, they will re-sprout as separate individual plants if their above ground parts are severed (Nature Serve 2007). Vegetative fragments are dispersed by water, machinery, slashing, the dumping of garden refuse and during removal (Muyt 2001).

What is its history in Australia?

Japanese Honeysuckle was introduced to Australia (and many other countries) for planting as an ornamental in gardens (Land Protection 2006). Some varieties are used in traditional Chinese medicine (Turner & Wasson 1997).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Infestations of Japanese Honeysuckle require an integrated program utilising various control methods. The most effective eradication technique seems to be a combination of herbicide application and burning (GISD 2005).

Non-chemical control: Manual removal can be used for seedlings and small infestations but is not recommended for large infestations where it is likely to be ineffective and lead to considerable soil disturbance and further spread (Muyt 2001). Mowing and grazing control its spread but do not eradicate it.

Fire: Prescribed burns remove above-ground vegetation and reduce new growth but do not destroy roots, which continue to produce sprouts. 

Chemical control: A range of herbicide treatments can be used including painting root crowns after stems have been cut back, using Drill-Fill and Stem-Scrape methods to treat larger climbing stems and spraying with selective and non-selective herbicides. Follow-up treatments are often required because plants commonly re-shoot (Muyt 2001).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au 

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Vegetative runners of Japanese Honeysuckle are most prolific in open sun and will display little growth under moderate shade. In deep shade, runners develop but often die back. Flowering and fruit development are heaviest in open sunny areas. Flowers are produced mainly between June and January. Fruits mature in summer and autumn. Seedling establishment and growth is slow in the first 2 years of development of a new infestation (Jeanes 1999; Muyt 2001; National Herbarium of Victoria 2007; Nyboer undated).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Japanese Honeysuckle occurs in south-eastern Australia from south-east Queensland to southern and eastern Victoria (Jeanes 1999, Land Protection 2006). 

In South Australia, most records recorded from the Southern Lofty region, with a single collection from the Flinders in a creekline (eFlora 2021). 

In Western Australia, most records are from the Perth region south to near Albany and are relatively close to the coast (Spooner et al. 2007).

Where does it originate?

Japanese Honeysuckle is native to Japan  Korea and China (POWO 2019; USDA 2021).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Lonicera japonica

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

Lonicera confusa DC. (misapplied by Bailey, F.M. 1910, Queensland Agricultural Journal. 25(1): 10.)

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Chinese Honeysuckle, Hall's Honeysuckle

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