The invasive honeysuckle is one of the first to grow leaves and the last to lose its leaves. It also produces bright red berries. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
The invasive honeysuckle is one of the first to grow leaves and the last to lose its leaves. It also produces bright red berries. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – Within the last 12 to 15 years the invasive honeysuckle has began to overtake the Hiestand Woods. This has created quite the problem for the nature preserve as it puts native species in danger.

Van Wert County Foundation director Seth Baker noted that VWCF, who owns the Hiestand Woods property, has sought help to remove the invasive species.

Hugh Kocab of YMCA has been cutting the honeysuckle, spraying it directly, and then removing it to ensure the berries don’t spread.

“The honeysuckle is attracted to fringe areas where there is sunlight,” said Baker. “Hiestand Woods is the perfect example of the perfect storm for honeysuckle.”

One way honeysuckle is spread is through birds. After a citizen plants honeysuckle in their landscape, birds may come along and eat the berries off of them. Then, as birds travel, they produce droppings with the seeds in them, which spreads the honeysuckle from area to area.

Baker noted that for the next five years Kocab will have to keep spraying targeted areas where the cut honeysuckle once was.

Curtis Young, OSU Extension Educator, noted that honeysuckle can be threatening to Hiestand Woods in several ways, one of which effects early springtime flowers that begin to bloom before trees start to canopy over.

“With honeysuckle it comes out so rapidly and early in the spring that it’s going to thin and reduce and eliminate those spring flowers if we don’t get it out of there,” said Young. “It’s highly competitive.”

Tree saplings are also at risk, added Baker. Baker continued by noting that honeysuckle is known to delay growth of native trees, as it sucks a lot of the moisture out of the ground.

Honeysuckle also has an effect on birds like cardinals, said Young. He noted that female cardinals are attracted to brighter red male cardinals. Less desirable (not as bright) cardinals have been found to eat the red berries on honeysuckle and in turn, it makes their plumage brighter red, tricking females into believing they are desirable mates.

“In addition to that, we have a number of native shrubs that we want, but these plants look just as attractive to make a nest in as those native shrubs,” said Young. “However, this produces the wrong strength to the shrubbery and predators can climb this better than the native plants, so it endangers the songbird populations.”

Baker hopes that by removing the honeysuckle and getting the invasive species under control, the community will be able to enjoy the native species at Hiestand Woods long into the future.

“This park was established as nature preserve and the intention was to preserve the native species that are here, not to remove it,” said Baker. “We’re not going in and removing native species but it’s (the honeysuckle) in essence going in and doing that for us, so we need to remove that.”