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How did Japanese Honeysuckle Get To America?

by Dr. M Azeez on July 07, 2020

Japanese Honeysuckle was introduced to the United States somewhere in 1806 on Long Island, New York. From that time until now, the berries have spread all around the Eastern half of the United States, in some 26 US States. The climate of the Eastern US suits the cultivation of these berries and here they grow in a favorable climate.

Japanese Honeysuckle alternately known as Haskap gives rise to berries that are extraordinarily powerful and possess unexpected medicinal properties because of the high amounts of antioxidants they are rich in. These berries have become popular in the Western hemisphere not very long ago and the better tasting berries are but a recent biological creation. These berries are not native to the US and Canada though they have been readily adopted by this part of the world. Surprisingly, they came from the lands of the East i-e the Japan and Russian islands. Even the name Haskap itself is drawn from Japanese which in Japanese means berries of longevity and eye health.

Haskap berries have a rich history in Japan and Russia where they are even a part of the local folklore. There is some satisfying evidence that these berries were originated somewhere in or near Eastern Siberia and Kamchatka. The berries, however, were carried by the migrating birds to the Russian Kuril islands and as well as to the Island of Hokkaido where they made their way into the local culture, cuisine, medication and folklore and ultimately became famous from the same name Haskap that is still used to refer to these berries. (source)

The cultivation is severely hindered by the extreme climatic conditions of the North where intense winters make the cultivation almost impossible. The West has also seen irregular and erratic growth of Japanese honeysuckle. Haskap has proved somewhat to be a failure in the south because of the insufficient precipitation and prolonged droughts. (source)

Japanese honeysuckle was introduced to America as an ornamental plant for erosion control, wildlife forage, and cover. But there are several problems associated with the Haskap plant. Japanese honeysuckle damages native plants by competing for soil nutrients, sunlight, and other resources. The vines overtop adjacent plants by twining around them. It can also cover small trees and shrubs.

It can be grown in the home gardens. It is extremely rich in Vitamin C and possess higher levels of antioxidants such as Anthocyanin; even higher than what is found in blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Various varieties have recently been very popular. These include:

  • Tundra
  • Borealis
  • Indigo Gem
  • Blue Lightning
  • Kamchatka.

Each possesses specific plant properties. Some of the earlier varieties were introduced when a breeding program was started at the Oregon State University based on the Japanese species. Later, by 2008, the Canadian university, the University of Saskatchewan has researched and developed a whole new variety of better tasting berries that dwell with the weather conditions of the western hemisphere.

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