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Lonicera caerulea - blue honeysuckle

In Finland blue honeysuckle grows naturally only in Kuusamo, close to the Arctic Circle, where it is a protected endangered species. It is widely used in gardens, being both extremely hardy and undemanding; occasionally it is found as an escapee.

Blue honeysuckle forms a low bush as wide as it is high, with blue-green leaves. The flowers, appearing in May, are yellowish. After Midsummer the blue berries ripen, bitter-tasting and slightly poisonous due to the saponins they contain.

There is also an edible variety (L. caerulea var. edulis) of blue honeysuckle, which unfortunately cannot be distinguished in appearance from the poisonous species. In Russia this edible variety has been selected and bred for a long time. The bushes resulting from this work produce sweet berries about 2-3cms long which taste something like blueberries, bilberries or cranberries.


Lonicera xylosteum - fly honeysuckle

Lonicera xylosteum © Susanna

Fly honeysuckle is native to Finland, one of the typical plants of fertile shady groves. A rather straggly shrub, it produces yellowish-white, small, scented flowers early in spring as the leaves break bud. After flowering, the attractive bright red berries develop in joined pairs, looking rather like red currants, but they are poisonous.

Fly honeysuckle is hardy as far north as the Arctic Circle. Though it will grow in drier, poorer soils and even in full sun, it is at its best in shady moist spots. Linné described in his Species Plantarum the 2m stems and curving branches of hard tough wood. This wood was once used in making various small household articles and even tools.


Lonicera maackii - Amur or bush honeysuckle


In full foliage the Amur honeysuckle brings to mind rather more exotic genera. The gracefully curving branches bear leaves in opposite pairs, with white flowers produced in pairs where the leaves join the stems. They appear in June, and by autumn develop into bright red, slightly poisonous berries.

This species hasn’t been much used in Finland, but plants from suitable provenances should be hardy to central parts of the country. At Mustila the old bushes growing on Pähkinärinne (Hazelnut Slope) are deeply shaded by other plants and aren’t at their best. In the right place, this is one of the best of the honeysuckles.



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