Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wildflower Wednesday -- Twinberry Honeysuckle

Twinberry honeysuckle, aka Lonicera involucrata, is another of my favorite Western native shrubs. I saw an enormous, beautiful specimen of it this past weekend over on the Olympic Peninsula. At first, I thought it was a shrub I didn't know, and took pictures of it, thinking "I wonder who can tell me what these rich dark reddish-purple flowers are?"

Then I looked more closely at the pictures on my computer, and realized they weren't purple flowers, they were purple-black berries, backed up by dark, rich red bracts. That, I recognized!

They were one of the first shrubs I planted in this garden, our first spring here. I have three of them. I would have had four, but one didn't survive being planted in an out-of-the-way spot and got neglected that first summer. These shrubs like a damp spot, but mine are doing fine now on a raised berm after being established. They do get a little water each summer during our dry season.

Twin flowers on my shrub

They flower from spring into summer, and mine right now have both berries and flowers at the same time. The berries formed from the earliest flowers, and now even more flowers have formed and are attracting hummingbirds. The yellow bell-like flowers hang in pairs, and form into purple berries. Native Americans called it crowberry, or raven's food, because the berries are too unpalatable to eat.

Mine started out quite small, just basically sticks with roots, bought cheaply from the Pierce Conservation District. But they are now quite big, with about a 6-foot spread, and should get even bigger. They grow both wide and tall, possibly as high as 8 or 10 feet.

Growing well on a mounded berm with lots of other native, and a few non-native (at least to the PNW), shrubs and perennials

This slightly smaller specimen was grown in a pot its first year, and then was planted last spring to replace the one that died.

The third shrub is part of a mixed shrub hedge at the back of the garden. It's an excellent candidate for that use, especially if you mix it with other native shrubs that are allowed to grow mostly unpruned.

Twinberry honeysuckle is native from Alaska to Mexico, and grows in Washington on both sides of the Cascades. It is deciduous, and the berries are reportedly eaten by birds and other wildlife. Mine are thriving in part shade. You can see the USDA distribution map here.

Here you can see both new flowers, and ripening berries.

The two little shield bugs on this branch tip are the same colors as the ripening berries. I haven't seen the bugs in high numbers, nor have I seen any damage. So I figure I'll leave well enough alone. For now.

Twinberry honeysuckle is a great candidate for a bird garden, especially if you're trying to attract hummingbirds. I see hummers on mine just about every day.

I just love the name honeysuckle. Good thing I'm too old for new babies, I might be tempted to name a daughter Honeysuckle. Twinberry is one of the few plants in my garden that has a family connection.  One of my nieces has twins, and this reminds me of them every time I see it.

Check out Gail's blog clay and limestone. She hosts Wildflower Wednesday on the fourth Wednesday of every month.