The Bracted Honeysuckle (Lonicera involucrata) is a flowering shrub that is native to North America, and can be found all through K-Country. It’s often noticeably showy, especially at flowering and fruiting season. It goes by many other common names, including Bearberry Honeysuckle, Twinberry Honeysuckle, Californian Honeysuckle, Twin-berry, or Black Twinberry.
Bracted Honeysuckle is a deciduous shrub that typically grows to a height of 1 to 3 meters (3 to 10 feet). It has opposite leaves that are oval or elliptical in shape, with a slightly hairy texture. The flowers are tubular and yellow to orange in color, with two lips and long stamens. The distinctive feature of this plant is the bracts, which are the purple leaf-like structures that surround the base of each flower in the photo to the right.
Habitat & Flowering
This species is commonly found in montane and subalpine regions. It prefers moist habitats, such as stream banks, meadows, and forest edges. Bracted Honeysuckle can tolerate a range of soil types, including rocky or sandy soils.
Bracted Honeysuckle typically blooms in late spring to early summer, usually from May to July. The flowers are attractive to pollinators such as hummingbirds and butterflies. After the flowers, the plant produces small, round berries. These are initially green, and eventually turn red, purple or orange as they ripen. These berries are consumed by birds and small mammals, and in enough density, can be a favourite of bears, too.
Careful with those berries!
The berries are… interesting. According to the USDA, “Reports on the fruit vary from poisonous, to mildly toxic, to bitter and unpalatable, to edible and useful as food, depending on tribe, region or publication.” The most positive reports state the berries of honeysuckle plants were consumed by Indigenous peoples fresh or used in traditional dishes, including as ingredients in jams, jellies, or other preserved foods. However, they are slightly poisonous, so should not be consumed in large quantities.
The Honeysuckle plants themselves have been used in traditional medicine by Indigenous communities. The bark, leaves, flowers, or berries were sometimes prepared as infusions, poultices, or decoctions for treating various ailments, such as colds, fevers, respiratory issues, or skin conditions. The plant was valued for its potential antiviral, anti-inflammatory, or soothing properties.
You can cultivate Bracted Honeysuckle in your garden fairly readily. It prefers partial shade to full sun and well-drained soil. This shrub can be propagated through seeds with or without stratification,or by taking stem cuttings.
See more of the pretty flowers on K-Country here.