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Lonicera caerulea (Blue-berried Honeysuckle or Sweetberry Honeysuckle) is a honeysuckle native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere.

It is a deciduous shrub growing to 1.5–2 m tall. The leaves are opposite, oval, 3–8 cm long and 1–3 cm broad, glaucous green, with a slightly waxy texture. The flowers are yellowish-white, 12–16 mm long, with five equal lobes; they are produced in pairs on the shoots. The fruit is a blue berry about 1 cm in diameter.


There are nine varieties, treated as subspecies by some authors[who?]:

  • Lonicera caerulea var. altaica. Northern Asia.
  • Lonicera caerulea var. caerulea. Europe.
  • Lonicera caerulea var. cauriana. Western North America.
  • Lonicera caerulea var. dependens. Central Asia.
  • Lonicera caerulea var. edulis, synonym: L. edulis.[1] Eastern Asia.
  • Lonicera caerulea var. emphyllocalyx (also known as Haskap). Eastern Asia.
  • Lonicera caerulea var. kamtschatica. Northeastern Asia.
  • Lonicera caerulea var. pallasii. Northern Asia, northeastern Europe.
  • Lonicera caerulea var. villosa. Eastern North America.

Common names

  • Haskap: an ancient Japanese name of the Ainu people (also spelled phonetically as Haskappu, Hascap, Hascup) but still used today in Japan and in North America.
  • Blue Honeysuckle: descriptive translation from Russia.
  • Honeyberry: coined by Jim Gilbert of One Green World Nursery, Oregon, and fairly common in North America.
  • Sweet Berry Honeysuckle: an old common name from the 1940s.
  • Swamp fly honeysuckle.[2]
  • Known in Russia as “Жимолость съедобная” (“Edible Honeysuckle”).

Distribution and habitat

The species is circumpolar, primarily found in or near wetlands of boreal forests in heavy peat soils. However, it can also be found in high calcium soils, in mountains, and along the northeast coasts of Asia and North America. Interestingly, it is absent on west coasts. It has not been found in Norway nor Alaska nor British Columbia.[citation needed]

Cultivation and uses

Russia’s N.I. Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry has the longest history of collecting from the wild[3] and breeding this crop. L. c. var. edulis has been used the most in their breeding efforts but other varieties have been bred with it to increase productivity and flavour. In Japan (Hokkaido Island) and in the Oregon State University Haskap breeding programs, L. c. var. emphyllocalyx has been the dominant variety used.[4] The University of Saskatchewan Breeding Program in Canada is also emphasizing L.c. var. emphyllocalyx but is also hybridizing with Russian varieties and L. c. var. villosa.[5]

Within-row spacing is recommended at 1 meter if growing the plants into a hedge is desired. At 1.5 meters the plants can remain as individual bushes for many years. Plants will grow to be 1.5 to 2 meters tall and wide. It can survive a large range of soil acidity, from 3.9-7.7 (optimum 5.5-6.5).[6][7] Blue-berried honeysuckle plants require high organic matter, well drained soils, and lots of sunlight for optimum productivity. Lonicera caerulea plants are more tolerant of wet conditions than most fruit species. Harvest season can be 2 weeks before strawberries for Russian type varieties but Japanese types will ripen at a similar time to strawberries. Two compatible varieties are needed for cross pollination and fruit set. This is a northern adapted species that can tolerate -45C/F temperatures in winter. In North America most Russian varieties are adapted to Hardiness zones 1 to 4. Likely gardeners living in zones 5 and 6 would need to use the Japanese varieties, which are far less likely to grow during warm periods during winter. The southern range of where this plant could be grown is not yet known. Often it will fruit the following season after being planted, even if very small. Perhaps by the 3rd year 1 pound (1/2 kg) may be harvested. The plants may take three or four years to produce an abundant harvest.[2] Average production on a good bush is about 7 lbs (3 kg).[2]

Blue-berried honeysuckle can be used in processed products: pastries, jams, juice, wine, ice cream, yogurt, sauces, and candies. When frozen fruit is placed in the mouth it melts away. Seeds are not noticeable when eating but if they are observed they are similar in appearance to seeds found in kiwifruit. The skins simply disintegrate which has caused some excitement amongst ice cream and smoothie makers. The fruit also turns dairy products into a bright purple-red. It can make excellent wine, some say[8] similar to grape or cherry wine. The wine will be a rich burgundy colour. Its juice has perhaps a 10 to 15x more concentrated color than cranberry juice.[2]

Written on October 16th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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