New Strategy For Honeysuckle

I’m trying out a new strategy to deal with honeysuckle and multi-flora. The area I’m working on is 20 acres and it’s only me working at it. I’ve never really been happy with the cut and treat with glyphosate approach. it just seems like there are so many stems that must be treated and it results in a ton of glyphosate being used. This approach also means going back and forth from saw to applicator, which i’ve never liked.

Last year I tried root docking with a spud bar. Essentially chipping all the roots away from the root crown and pulling the plant out. This results in a very minimal sized divot where just the root crown was extracted… I don’t think it’ll make a meaningful difference wrt erosion. Most of the plants I’m dealing with are less 4" or less in diameter. I liked this approach but it took too long to cover the area I need to cover.

This year I’ve decided to try a hybrid approach. I’m root docking like last year to create large square areas in the woods (the outline of each acre sized square is about 4’ wide and is cleared of honeysuckle using the root docking approach). Inside the square I’m not going to use root docking. Instead, I’m going to cut the honeysuckle off about halfway up. My under-story has four dominant species… honeysuckle, ohio buckeye, spicebush, and multi-flora. The spicebush is almost as common as honeysuckle but is usually about half the height of the honeysuckle. I want to make sure the spicebush “wins” by repeatedly lopping off the honeysuckle below the height of the spicebush.

I tried this in a very small area several years ago and it seemed to work pretty well. What I noticed is that the spicebush grew like crazy and shaded the honeysuckle to the point that it couldn’t grow nearly as fast. I also noticed that many of the roots died on honeysuckle plants where I had cut the height to below that of the spicebush. This made it MUCH easier to come back through with the spudbar and chip away the remaining roots and pull each compromised plant.

Has anyone else tried something like this?


On a small scale i think this sort of approach should definitely be effective or at least worth a try. It might not scale to larger areas, but weed wrenches should also work on honeysuckle (not so much on rosa which is a horrible gross species yuck). Good thing to document on iNat too, see if additional native species come in. If you have a larger area and are still willing to also use herbicide you could try similar areas with each treatment and a ‘control’ area with no treatment and see if you can parse out which area has the most native plants, fungi, insects, etc.


Oh this is a brilliant strategy. I will have to try this with my invasives. Unfortunately the ONLY bush sized plants in my hedgerow are autumn olive, but maybe I can try to just get rid off the ones around the trees? I will have to share this idea with my mom, it seems like something she would like to try too.


i am trying an experiment with a singular burning bush where i cut it to the ground and am heaping soil on it from other nearby inavsive plant root balls i pulled. This wouldn’t be appropriate in some settings and certainly would be unreasonably time intensive in others, but since it’s a yard setting it’s been an interesting experiment. In many forest environments large hummocks are important and are often lost by past land disturbance in restoration sites, so it may end up being a good technique on a very small scale. In more intact settings the soil disturbance wouldn’t be desirable. and i am unsure for each species how much soil heaping is needed. It wouldn’t work for some, such as knotweed.


Yes, multi-flora is awful. It factors into my reasoning. If I cut the honeysuckle at the base and treat the stump, too much sunlight hits the ground and I fear a bumper crop of multi-flora shoots. If I cut the honeysuckle halfway up and let it live (for now), it’ll help shade out the multi-flora while I allow the uncut spicebush time to “win”.

The other thing is… whenever I cut a large honeysuckle at the base it falls uncontrollably and many times onto something I’m wanting to save. If it falls into and damages a buckeye or spicebush… I’m waiting that much longer for the damaged good plants to grow and shade out the baddies. I’m able to more easily control how (and where) it falls when I cut it halfway up. Then I can carefully place the severed top half of the plant in and around the buckeye and spicebush.

The multiflora I’m cutting off at the base and piling the top half of the honeysuckle onto the cut multi-flora stumps. I’m hoping this tamps it down long enough for the spicebush and buckeye to close the canopy above the cut flora stumps. Anecdotally, it appears that multi-flora is less shade tolerant than honeysuckle… it still lives in fairly deep shade but doesn’t thrive and is much easier to control when limping along in the shade.

Autumn olive is occasional in the woods I’m working on. I’ve tried root docking autumn olive and have found that the roots (tap root?) goes deeper than honeysuckle. When I’ve tried root docking it I always end up severing the tap root and I’m not sure if it’ll resprout from what is left in the soil.

In any case, cutting off the autumn olive just below the height of the tree saplings you’re encouraging is an interesting idea. It might make a living fence around some of the saplings helping protect them from deer. Especially if you pile the cut olive branches in and around the saplings. I have a huge problem with deer eating the seedlings and saplings I most want to encourage (oak, hickory and beech in particular).

You’ll get a LOT more sunlight in a hedgerow than I get in the woods… so you might need to lop off the olive more often to keep it below the height of the trees. Seems like it could work tho.

I’ve previously used this approach with burning bush and Norway maple to great effect. Actually I took it a step further and made kind of a makeshift Hügelkultur mound out of the area, piling on a layer of brush before burying everything. As of 2 1/2 years later, no new growth of undesirable species has emerged.

Thank you for the advice! I’m thinking of starting with the bushes around the young trees, I just don’t know if excessive cutting will make it grow even more vigourously?

I’d try that, except… sticks that come off of those thing actually reroot even with all the leaves stripped off, but they may not reroot in the winter, I’ll have to see.

Glyphosate may be restricted soon. Depending on the location and laws of the land. New generation weedkillers will appear. The side-effects unknown.

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