honeysuckle, common name for some members of the Caprifoliaceae, a family comprised mostly of vines and shrubs of the Northern Hemisphere, especially abundant in E Asia and E North America. The family includes the elders, viburnums, weigelas, and snowberries as well as the honeysuckles; many are hardy plants that are sometimes cultivated as ornamentals. One of the best-known North American species of the true honeysuckles (genus Lonicera ) is the trumpet honeysuckle ( L. sempervirens ), an evergreen plant with fragrant, trumpet-shaped scarlet blossoms. The Japanese honeysuckle ( L. japonica ), with small white to yellow flowers, is naturalized in the United States and has become a ubiquitous and noxious weed, strangling the living plants on which it climbs. Woodbine, a name for several European vines, is most often L. periclymenum, also called eglantine. Bush honeysuckles are of the genus Diervilla. Some plants of other families are also called honeysuckle, e.g., the swamp and purple honeysuckles of the heath family. Sambucus (elder or elderberry) and Viburnum are shrubs and trees usually having showy flat-topped clusters of white flowers. The fruits of some species are edible, e.g., those of the common North American elder ( S. canadensis ), used in preserves, pies, and wine. The European elder ( S. nigra ) and the "Spirit of the Elder" have figured prominently in folklore of N Europe. Among the better known viburnums (also having edible berries) are the black haw, or stagbush ( V. prunifolium ), of E North America; the straggling-branched hobblebush, or wayfaring tree ( V. alnifolium in America, V. lantana in the Old World); and the high-bush cranberry, or cranberry tree ( V. opulus; the American plants are sometimes designated as V. trilobum ). The snowball, or guelder-rose, is a cultivated variety of the cranberry tree in which the rounded blossom–clusters are composed of large sterile flowers. Arrowwood ( V. dentatum and similar species) was formerly used for making arrows. The waxy-fruited snowberries are species of the genus Symphoricarpos. Weigela (or weigelia), shrubs of the E Asian genus Weigela, are sometimes cultivated elsewhere for their funnel-shaped blossoms. Twinflower ( Linnaea borealis ), unusual for this family in that it is herbaceous, was the favorite flower of Linnaeus. Honeysuckle is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Dipsacales, family Caprifoliaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.