Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I plucked a honeysuckle where
the hedge on high is quick with thorn...
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The air is perfumed these days with the sweetness of honeysuckle. As we were driving home last Saturday I noticed something interesting on the side of the road near Joe's Run.

Which meant, of course--"Turn around and go back there. I want a picture of that." My obliging husband did as I asked. What a guy.

The two honeysuckles were beautiful growing side by side. I am not sure if I have ever seen--or paid enough attention to see--a red honeysuckle before.

I think this might be the variety:

Lonicera x heckrottii 'Goldflame' Coral Honeysuckle, Goldflame Honeysuckle, zones 5-9
Description: A twining, fast growing vine to cover a fence, trellis or even an unsightly telephone pole. The fragrant, showy flowers are pink and yellow with red buds and bloom almost all summer. This variety will tolerate more shade than others. (from http://www.daytonnursery.com/Encyclopedia/Vines/Lonicera.htm)
Apparently this is an escapee? Or does this color occur naturally? Anyone know?

As with most flowers, honeysuckle has folkloric properties. According to New-Age, "Honeysuckle - devoted love - said to protect your garden from evil. It is known as the 'love bind' - symbolizing a lover's embrace in its clinging growing habits. The heady fragrance of the flowers was believed to induce dreams of love and passion. If the bloom is brought into the house a wedding is said to follow within the year. The honeysuckle's berries are poisonous.'...how sweetly smells the honeysuckle in the hush'd night...' Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1859"

Other attributes of honeysuckle:
  • if you bring honeysuckle into your house, there will soon be a wedding--which makes sense, since many weddings are in June when honeysuckle is in bloom
  • Honeysuckle planted around your door will keep the evil spirits at bay
  • bring a sprig of honeysuckle into your bedroom, or sleep with it under your pillow, and you will dream sweet dreams.
  • honeysuckle is a favorite food of hummingbirds
  • In France, giving a loved one a piece of honeysuckle was considered a sign of union.
  • the website Annie's Remedies lists many medicinal uses of honeysuckle, with the caveat that the list is educational only and not intended as medical advice.
  • honeysuckle flowers, live or dried, are supposed to bring luck.
  • Legends and Lore of Texas Wildflowers provides a wealth of background information about the various types of honeysuckle.
  • "Honeysuckle – they said if you sucked on that and you had worms that you would pass those worms." From an online folklore project collecting African-American traditions in Brazoria, Texas in the late 1800's-earl 1900's.
  • In Plant Lore, Legend and Lyrics, the author says that honeysuckle was also called woodbine (although today there is a different plant with that name) and that the French liked to plant it in cemeteries. He also noted that sick people would be passed three times through a circular wreath of honeysuckle to cure consumption; it was also used as a cure for "hectic children." (Does that mean hyperactive?)
  • Of course, all children seem to know how to "sip" the honeysuckle's dew by nipping off the end and carefully pulling the stamens and pistils through the flower to get the tiny drop of golden liquid hidden in the flower's depths.
All in all, honeysuckle seems like a plant that brings good things to any home. So whether its pink or yellow, consider adding some to your next bouquet, wreath, or plantings.

To close, here's a story from Scotland with honeysuckle playing a support role to heather. It's from the website The Cairngorm Moorlands Project.

The Legend of the Heather
When God first made the world, He looked at the bare and barren hillsides and thought how nice it would be to cover them with some kind of beautiful tree or flower. So he turned to the Giant Oak, the biggest and strongest of all of the trees he had made, and asked him if he would be willing to go up to the bare hills to help make them look more attractive.
But the oak explained that he needed a good depth of soil in order to grow and that the hillsides would be far too rocky for him to take root.

So God left the oak tree and turned to the honeysuckle with its lovely yellow flower and beautiful sweet fragrance. He asked the honeysuckle if she would care to grow on the hillsides and spread her beauty and fragrance amongst the barren slopes. But the honeysuckle explained that she needed a wall or a fence or even another plant to grow against, and for that reason, it would be quite impossible for her to grow in the hills.

So God then turned to one of the sweetest and most beautiful of all the flowers - the rose. God asked the rose if she would care to grace the rugged highlands with her splendour. But the rose explained that the wind and the rain and the cold on the hills would destroy her, and so she would not be able to grow on the hills.

Disappointed with the oak, the honeysuckle and the rose, God turned away. At length, he came across a small, low lying, green shrub with a flower of tiny petals -some purple and some white. It was heather.God asked the heather the same question that he’d asked the others. "Will you go and grow upon the hillsides to make them more beautiful?"

The heather thought about the poor soil, the wind and the rain - and wasn’t very sure that she could do a good job. But turning to God she replied that if he wanted her to do it, she would certainly give it a try.

God was very pleased. He was so pleased in fact that he decided to give the heather some gifts as a reward for her willingness to do as he had asked.
Firstly he gave her the strength of the oak tree - the bark of the heather is the strongest of any tree or shrub in the whole world.Next he gave her the fragrance of the honeysuckle - a fragrance that is frequently used to gently perfume soaps and potpourris.

Finally he gave her the sweetness of the rose - so much so that heather is one of the bees favourite flowers. And to this day, heather is renowned especially for these three God given gifts.


Susan said...

Wow, what memories this brings back! My mother used to have a wall covered in honeysuckle and yes, the girls would all hang around it pulling off flowers to taste!

'Hectic' used to refer to consumption/tuberculosis and the fevers it brought, or just fever itself.

Janet, said...

I loved this Susanne. When I was a baby they passed me through a horse's collar to cure me of an unknown malady. They said it worked. I'm going to copy this info about honeysuckle and might incorporate it into my MG about the family treasure. If you remember honeysuckle plays a big part in the story. My grandpa had honeysuckle growing down the path to his house, I remember the sweet fragrance.

Granny Sue said...

Certainly, Janet--use any of it that fits. I find this folklore fascinating.

Granny Sue said...

Thank you for the definition, Susan. I'd never head the term before but seems more descriptive than ADHD. I can see why they'd use the term for the diseases though--tossing and turning, upset, confused.

smallpines said...

Now that's one thing I do miss about the South - honeysuckle. Such neat info about it - thanks for the good read. Only wish it would grow up here. I'm stuck with Rugosa and Day Lillies for perennials! LOL

Twisted Fencepost said...

Love this post, Granny Sue!
Honeysuckle is one of my favorite blooms. The scent will stop me in my tracks.

Tipper said...

Nothing smells as good as honeysuckle-like Becky I have to stop and sniff a while!

Your garden is looking great!

Tony said...

When I was little, we had a honeysuckle bush growing on the fence in our yard. My friend Cory and I mixed water, poison ivy, and honeysuckles together and convinced ourselves that the combination was lethal. We then put the mixture into water bottles and we had deadly water guns. Somehow Cory ended up spraying me with his and he spent the next ten minutes calming me down and convincing me that I was not going to die. Funny the things kids will believe.

Rowan said...

I've always loved honeysuckle both the scent and the flower. It's still called woodbine over here - Shakespeare mentions it, Titania's bower was 'o'er canopied with lush woodbine'. I enjoyed your story, heather grows in great abundance on the moors near here and is a wonderful sight when it flowers in the late summer.

Granny Sue said...

Tony, that's a story to tell! I can just imagine the two of you mixing your concoction. Obviously you were a storyteller even then because you believed in the power of your own story. Too funny. Kids would love that tale--as would adults.

I wonder, Rowan, if there s a way to capture the scent of honeyscukle? That's something to look for because it is certainly blooming in profusion right now. Although we're not enjoying the scent as much as we might because of all the rain.

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