Honeysuckle, callery pears are easy to spot in KS in March

Susan Howell

Experts say bush honeysuckle is an invasive plant to keep an eye out for in Wichita this spring.

Experts say bush honeysuckle is an invasive plant to maintain an eye out for in Wichita this spring.

The Wichita Eagle

March is here, which means spring is just around the corner. As the weather is warming up and you’re looking forward to spending more time outdoors, it could come in handy to know which invasive plants may be lurking in your yard.

Experts watch out for invasive plant species year-around, but March is a time when some invasive plants are even more visible. Here’s what those gardening in Wichita and the surrounding areas should know and what to do if you find one in your yard.

Most common invasive plants in Wichita

Two of the most common invasive species in Wichita are bush honeysuckle and callery pear trees, according to Ryan Armbrust, the rural forestry program coordinator for Kansas Forest Service.

Bush honeysuckle is a green bush with bright red berries.

“The big problem with bush honeysuckle is that it’s a really successful plant,” Armbrust said. “It springs up and leafs out earlier than most native vegetation and it stays green later, which gives it a big competitive advantage over any sort of things,” Armbrust said. “So, through several mechanisms it really shades out, pushes out and displaces a lot of native vegetation and results in basically … nothing but bush honeysuckle.”

Callery pear trees, which are large trees with small white flowers, have been a problem for about 10 years, Armbrust said, but they are recently gaining more visibility.

“It’s similar to a lot of invasive species, where it’ll shade out and push out other desirable species,” he said. “The unique thing about callery pears is it’s a really tough, tough tree.”

March is the prime time for callery pears, Armbrust said, and they’re hard to miss. A couple seedlings from callery pears can turn into thousands over the course of a few years.

“We definitely see it all over Wichita, we see it all over the eastern half of Kansas,” Armbrust said.

The program coordinator said callery pears have been identified in 50 of 105 Kansas counties.

Here are some other common invasive plants in Kansas, from the Kansas Forest Service’s website:

  • Garlic mustard
  • Japanese honeysuckle
  • Kudzu vine
  • Tartarian honeysuckle
  • Morrow’s honeysuckle
  • Autumn olive
  • Common buckthorn
  • Japanese barberry
  • Multiflora rose
  • Saltcedar
  • Russian olive
  • Tree of heaven
  • Princess tree
  • Black locust

How invasive plants are managed

Armbrust said there’s no “one thing” that works for every invasive species.

“Unfortunately, there is no invasive species out there that has a silver bullet available for it, if it did it would be pretty easy to control,” he noted.

The Kansas Forest Service uses several means to manage the invasive plants, however.

“We try and identify using the basis of … integrated pest management, identify several different tools to be used in conjunction to help drive a system more towards the goal we have, which is reduce infestation by invasive plants, or increased resiliency against invasive plants,” Armbrust said.

The common ways to manage plants are excluding seed sources, mowing, cutting, prescribed fire and more, depending on the plant and needs.

For Wichita specifically, it’s a joint effort to manage invasive species.

“We did some cooperative work with Kansas Forest Service, looking for good methods of control, we’ve removed quite a few [bush honeysuckle] in a couple of select parks,” Warren McCoskey, Wichita’s park and recreation maintenance supervisor, said

McCoskey said for bush honeysuckle specifically, the city has utilized many resources, including volunteers.

“We’ve been reasonably aggressive with the bush honeysuckle, we have done lots of volunteer groups from the mayor’s youth council to Boy Scout troops to Scout eagle projects, [we’ve] just tried to fight back a lot of bush honeysuckle, we’re trying to keep it held at bay. I can’t say we’re winning, but we’re sure not losing ground on it,” McCoskey said.

When it comes to managing callery pears, that comes with a different set of challenges.

“It’s not as easy as bush honeysuckle as the plants tend to be quite a bit larger and not as easy for volunteers to deal with,” McCoskey said.

What to do if you see an invasive plant in your yard

If you notice an invasive plant in your yard, the best thing to do is get in contact with Sedgwick County Extension, McCoskey said. While you would be responsible for the plant, the county can help you find ways to control it.

If you spot noxious weeds in your yard, you should contact the noxious weeds department. Under state law, this department is responsible for controlling and eradicating such nuisances in the county.

Lindsay Smith is a support journalism reporter for the Wichita Eagle. Formerly, she was editor-in-chief of Wichita State University’s student newspaper, The Sunflower, for two a long time. She graduated from WSU in December 2022 with a diploma in journalism.

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