The Japanese honeysuckle plant produces flowers that are as tasty as they are charming, but that’s the only part of the honeysuckle plant you can eat. However, there are also poisonous honeysuckle varieties.
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Japanese Honeysuckle Plant Profile
Lonicera japonica is the scientific name for the climbing vine honeysuckle. You may recognize some of its common names, including:
- Japanese honeysuckle
- White honeysuckle
- Chinese honeysuckle
- Gold and silver honeysuckle
The name honeysuckle generally refers to the Caprifoliaceae family of flowering plants. About 200 species belong to the Lonicera genus as part of this family.
The climbing honeysuckle vine reaches an impressive length of 30 feet. With small yellow or white flowers, dark green leaves, and red honeysuckle berries, the Lonicera japonica is beautiful to look at.
Being native to Asia, Europe, and North America, this plant is commonly known in many places. It is also known for its fragrant flowers and sweet nectar that attract pollinators like bees and hummingbirds. Hence the name.
Early summer to early fall is the most common bloom time for this native species, but some honeysuckle species can flower earlier or later.
You can grow your honeysuckle plant in moist soils, but it prefers drained-humus-rich soil. Honeysuckle plants thrive in full sun, but this flower will tolerate some shade.
You’re most likely to find the common honeysuckle growing in woodland and hedgerow plants. This means they have evolved to have their climbing tendrils growing into the light and their roots shaded by trees and shrubs.
Can you Eat Honeysuckle?
The Japanese honeysuckle flowers are edible. Do not eat the leaves or honeysuckle red berries, as they can be mildly poisonous.
Due to their sweet nectar, honeysuckle flowers are both edible and tasty.
What Can you do with Edible Honeysuckle?
Some of the ways that you can use honeysuckle flowers include:
- Honeysuckle jelly is sweet, tasty, and easy to make when you grow your own honeysuckle.
- Honeysuckle syrup is a great addition to cocktails, porridge, or on top of desserts.
- Use honeysuckle flowers as cake or cupcake toppers.
- Throwing a few honeysuckle petals into salads adds a sweet and floral flavor.
- Combine fresh honeysuckle with iced tea or lemonade for a refreshing summer drink.
- Eat it as a snack when that sugar craving hits.
What about Honeysuckle Tea? Is it Safe?
Although the Japanese honeysuckle flower is safe to eat, occasionally, honeysuckle tea may contain small amounts of toxins that could be harmful in large doses.
Honeysuckle tea has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine, with various purported health benefits.
Honeysuckle tea is rumored to have been:
- Immune system boosting
- A digestive aid
- Hepatoprotective activities
But, there is limited scientific evidence to support these claims. So, although more research is needed, if it’s been around for generations of Chinese medicine, there must be something in it.
Make sure to also check out our video on 5 commonly used mushrooms for increased gut health!
What Honeysuckle Species are Edible?
On your foraging adventures, you may come across north American native species.
Before eating, be sure this variety of honeysuckle is edible. With 200 species of the honeysuckle plant, they can’t all be edible.
If you’re ever unsure whether or not the wild food you’re looking at is safe to consume, then don’t just it.
Some of the edible varieties include:
- L. angustifolia (edible fruit)
- L. affinis (edible flowers and fruit)
- L. caprifolium (edible fruit and flowers to make tea)
- L. hispidula (edible fruit)
- L. chrysantha (edible fruit)
- L. kamtchatica (edible fruit)
- L. involucrata (edible fruit)
- L. ciliosa (edible fruit, nectar)
- L. periclymenum (edible nectar)
- L. periclymenum (edible nectar)
- L. villosa sollonis (edible fruit)
- L. villosa (edible fruit)
- L. utahensis (edible fruit)
What Honeysuckle Species are Toxic?
As already mentioned, some native species of honeysuckle are fragrant and sweet, making the surrounding landscape attractive. They feed pollinators and are a firm favorite herbal medicine in many cultures.
Because there are so many species of the Honeysuckle lonicera plant genus, it’s expected that some would be toxic.
Some of the honeysuckle plants with the poisonous classification include:
- Lonicera tatarica (Tartarian honeysuckle)
- Lonicera xylosteum (dwarf or fly honeysuckle)
Both are classified as poisonous and invasive. Although many species of honeysuckle are edible, you must be careful when foraging or eating flowers and berries.
Some of the symptoms of toxicity include:
- Gastrointestinal upset
Although pets, farm animals, rodents, and wildlife are usually OK ingesting honeysuckle, vomiting or other serious side effects can occur. Rehydration will usually solve the problem and see the animal well again.
Other symptoms of animal poisoning from ingesting honeysuckle include:
- Excessive drooling
If you’re concerned that any human or an animal has ingested any part of a toxic honeysuckle plant, seek immediate advice from your doctor or veterinarian.