Ridding the Park of Invasive Species One Bush Honeysuckle at a Time

On October 28, we will host the 19th annual Honeysuckle & Invasive Species Removal Day – affectionately referred to here at Forest Park Forever as the “Honeysuckle Kill.” Year after year, our Nature Reserve team has refined and improved our woodland restoration practices based on lessons learned out in the Park and the latest research coming out of the field of restoration ecology. Removing honeysuckle and other invasive species is an important part of that restoration work.

At its inception, the Honeysuckle Kill focused exclusively on removing invasive bush honeysuckle in John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest. This effort was spearheaded by the Kennedy Woods Advisory Group (KWAG). Since then, this effort has grown to include a comprehensive strategy of species removal that builds on KWAG’s mission of improving habitat quality for native plants and animals.

The Forest Park Forever Nature Reserve team prioritizes the removal of invasive, exotic and aggressive native species. The species most often removed as a part of our woodland restoration efforts include:

  • Bush honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii): Native to Japan, this invasive shrub out-competes native plants for limited resources like nitrogen and phosphorus while altering soil chemistry. The bright red berries of this plant have little nutritional value and are a poor-quality food source for birds and mammals. Introduced to Missouri in the 1980s, it has dramatically changed our woodland landscapes in only a few decades.
  • Tree of heaven (Alianthus altissima): Native to China, this tree can now be found all over the alleyways of St. Louis. It can quickly colonize disturbed areas, replacing Missouri plants, and will regrow quickly when cut down – it can grow 10-15 ft. in a single year! Like bush honeysuckle, tree of heaven also changes soil chemistry.
  • White mulberry (Morus alba): Native to China, this small tree grows quickly and will often be among the first species to grow at forest edges and along roadsides, ultimately excluding native plants.
  • Silver maple (Acer saccharinum): This native tree grows quickly and establishes easily in a wide range of habitats. It has become more abundant in Missouri woodlands because natural fires are much less common. The number of silver maples in our forest ultimately reduce habitat quality, in part because maples bear much smaller and more perishable seeds than oak or hickory trees. These seeds are a poor-quality food source for native mammals foraging during the Missouri winter.
  • Ash trees (Fraxinus spp.): Ash trees are host plants for the emerald ash borer. Populations of this beetle have decimated ash trees throughout much of the United State. Our Nature Reserve team is preemptively removing ash tree to limit the spread of the beetle and minimize damage in our forests.

Biodiversity in a woodland begins at the forest floor. Oak and hickory trees dominated the canopy layer of historical Missouri woodlands, creating habitat beneath for diverse flowering plants, ferns, mosses and fungi. Our comprehensive approach to woodland management in Forest Park aims to restore these characteristics, thereby providing habitat for native plants and animals now and in the future.

If you'd like to be involved in improving the natural areas of Forest Park, we hope you'll join us on October 28! This year, we'll be working in the woodland near Steinberg Skating Rink and we'd love to have your help.