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Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)

Where: Mainly woods and woodland edge
When: Blooms from May - September
How many: Relatively widespread, although rarely abundant
Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle: a plant for all seasons? Maybe not quite, although honeysuckle is one of the first plants in southern England to show fresh new growth each year, often as early as late December or January, amidst winter snow and frost, in a welcome reminder that spring is not too far away.

Honeysuckle flowers, however, do not appear until May or June, and may continue to bloom until September, but they are certainly worth the wait. Long-tubed, white inside but otherwise yellowish-cream tinged with lilac or red, they eventually take on hues of orange-buff. The upper lip is four-lobed, whilst the lower lip has been described as tongue-like. The stamens noticeably extend beyond the mouth of the flower.

Ever richly scented, the flowers’ deliciously sweet aroma led Samuel Pepys in the 17th century to refer to ‘the trumpet flower’ whose bugles ‘blow scent instead of sound’. They are visited by a range of day flying pollinating insects, but night flyers, such as long-tongued moths, are clearly important, too, for as darkness falls, the strength of the flowers' scent noticeably increases in a determined attempt to attract passing insects.

A number of the honeysuckle’s many country names - woodbine, woodbind, bind, bindweed - refer to its climbing lifestyle, using for support the trunks and branches of shrubs and saplings as it twists ever upwards. Indeed, so tight is the grip of this deciduous, woody, clockwise climber that Geoffrey Grigson noted in The Englishman’s Flora: ‘Woodbine, honeysuckle, hugs more like a killing snake than a friend, often squeezing saplings into a spiral’, which results in a barley-sugar-like appearance that can frequently be observed in the New Forest.

Honeysuckle can be found in many of the local broad-leaved inclosures and in some of the ancient, unenclosed woodlands, although it is rarely abundantly present, for the plant is avidly taken by deer and commoners’ stock – both ponies and cattle. What survives, however, is of considerable importance to the ecology of the woods, for honeysuckle is the sole caterpillar food plant of the strikingly impressive White Admiral butterfly, and the plant's bright red berries are avidly taken by a range of birds.

References:
The New Forest – A Natural History: Colin R. Tubbs
The Encyclopedia of British Wild Flowers: John Akeroyd
The Englishman’s Flora: Geoffrey Grigson
The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland: Jim Asher, Martin Warren, Richard Fox, Paul Harding, Gail Jeffcoate and Stephen Jeffcoate

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** New Forest ponies **
New Forest ponies in the road
Ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during the first six months of 2018, 36 animals were killed or injured on Forest roads, compared with 26 in the same period in 2017, a shocking rise of 38%.
** Always take care when driving **
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley