Lonicera caerulea

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Lonicera caerulea
Lonicera coerulea a3.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Genus: Lonicera
Species: L. caerulea
Binomial name
Lonicera caerulea

Lonicera caerulea (honeyberry, 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 an edible, blue berry about 1 cm in diameter.


The classification within the species is not settled. One classification uses nine varieties.[citation needed]:

  • 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. kamschatica. Northeastern Asia.
  • Lonicera caerulea var. pallasii. Northern Asia, northeastern Europe.
  • Lonicera caerulea var. villosa. Eastern North America.

Another classification uses four subspecies:[2]

  • Lonicera caerulea subsp. caerulea.
  • Lonicera caerulea subsp. altaica.
  • Lonicera caerulea subsp. pallasii.
  • Lonicera caerulea subsp. villosa.

Common names[edit]

Haskap berry diversity
  • 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.[3]
  • Known in Russia as "Жимолость съедобная" ("Edible Honeysuckle").

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The species is circumpolar, primarily found in or near wetlands of boreal forests in heavy peat soils. However, it also can 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, Alaska, or British Columbia.[citation needed]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Haskap products on retail display in a Japanese market

Russia's N.I. Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry has the longest history of collecting from the wild[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

Plants of many cultivars 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).[7][8] 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 very cold temperatures; in North America, most Russian varieties are adapted to hardiness zones 1 to 4. Gardeners in zones 5 and 6 probably would need to use the Japanese varieties, which are far less likely to grow during warm periods during winter. The southern range of this plant is not yet known. Often it will fruit in the year 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.[3] Average production on a good bush is about 7 lbs (3 kg).[3]

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[9] 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.[3]


The fruit of blue-berried honeysuckle have been described as similar to raspberries, blueberries, black currants, or saskatoon berries. Bad ones can taste grassy or bitter (like tonic water). However, even the good ones will taste bad if eaten too early. Berries will turn blue on the outside before they are fully ripe inside. If the berries are green inside, they are not ripe; they should be a deep purple red inside when fully ripened.


External links[edit]