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Caprifoliaceae: Honeysuckle Family Plant Identification Characteristics

Caprifoliaceae / Adoxaceae
Plants of the Honeysuckle and Adoxa Families

      If you find a bush with opposite leaves and pithy stems (what looks like Styrofoam® in the core), then it may be a member of the Honeysuckle family or the closely related Adoxa family. Some species are herbs, and many species form flowers and berries in pairs. Those species with flowers and berries in pairs generally belong to the Honeysuckle family, while most species with flowers and berries in clusters were segregated by taxonomists to form the Adoxa family. For ease of identification, both families remain grouped together on this page.

      The plants have regular flowers, except in some species of Lonicera. The bisexual flowers include 5 usually united sepals (sometimes very small), plus 5 united petals and usually 5 stamens (sometimes 4 of each). The ovary is positioned inferior and consists of 2, 3, 5 or 8 united carpels with the partition walls either present or absent. It matures as a fleshy berry or sometimes a drupe, a fleshy fruit with a stoney pit. The remains of the sepals can be seen attached to the fruit. Worldwide, there are 15 genera and 400 species between the two families. Many genera are cultivated as ornamentals.

      Most species from these two families are borderline between being minimally edible and slightly toxic. Many, but not all of the species produce edible berries, with significantly bitter and/or astringent qualities. Some plants have toxic alkaloids present in either the fruits or vegetation. The vegetation typically has diaphoretic and laxative, but astringent properties.

Key Words:
Bushes with opposite leaves and flowers/berries usually paired or in clusters. Pithy stems.

Please e-mail Thomas J. Elpel to report mistakes or to inquire about purchasing high resolution photos of these plants.


Sambucus racemosa. Red Elderberry.

Sambucus racemosa. "Red" Elderberry. Near Glacier National Park. Montana.

Sambucus racemosa. Red Elderberry.

Sambucus racemosa. "Red" Elderberry.

Sambucus cerulea.Blue Elderberry.

Sambucus cerulea.Blue Elderberry.

Lonicera involucrata. Black Twinberry.

Lonicera involucrata. Black Twinberry.

Lonicera ciliosa. Western Trumpet Honeysuckle.

Lonicera ciliosa. Western Trumpet Honeysuckle.

Lonicera tatarica. Tartarian Honeysuckle.

Lonicera tatarica. Tartarian Honeysuckle. Planted as an ornamental shrub, it sometimes escapes cultivation.

Lonicera utahensis. Red Twinberry.

Lonicera utahensis. Red Twinberry.

Lonicera utahensis. Red Twinberry.

Lonicera utahensis. Red Twinberry.

Himalayan Honeysuckle: Leycesteria formosa.

Himalayan Honeysuckle: Leycesteria formosa. Himalayan Honeysuckle is native to Himalaya and southwestern China, but widely naturalized and often invasive in Australia, New Zealand, and Micronesia.

Himalayan Honeysuckle: Leycesteria formosa.

Himalayan Honeysuckle: Leycesteria formosa. Like many other members of the Honeysuckle family, the flowers and fruits often form in pairs.

Japanese Honeysuckle: Leycesteria formosa.

Lonicera japonica. Japanese Honeysuckle. Japanese honeysuckle is native to Japan, Korea, and China, but widely naturalized and often invasive in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, and much of the United States.

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West
Symphoricarpos alba. Snowberry.

Symphoricarpos alba. Snowberry.

Symphoricarpos alba. Snowberry.

Symphoricarpos alba. Snowberry. Common across the west.

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West
Viburnum edule. High Bush Cranberry.

Viburnum edule. High Bush Cranberry. Anchorage, Alaska.

There are more
Honeysuckle Family pictures
at PlantSystematics.org.


Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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Botany in a Day
Foraging the Mountain West
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Foraging the Mountain West

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Roadmap
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Living
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Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
Participating
in Nature
Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
Mountain West
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Botany
in a Day
Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids
Shanleya's
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