honeysuckle defined in 1912 yearhoneysuckle - HONEYSUCKLE (Lonicera periclymenum);
honeysuckle - "Virgin lamps of scent and dew," the Honeysuckle blossoms are indissolubly bound up in thought with the fragrant dusk of summer evenings. During the hours of sunshine the "clumps of woodbine taking the soft wind upon their summer thrones" and exhaling only a faint sweet smell are but somewhat neutral personalities at best; it needs the evening hour when the sunset dies for them to be revealed in their true vivid character. "The honeysuckle lit the matted boughs with Cressets burning odour," says a modern poet, (John Davidson) and true it is that only as the hedgerows fade into dusk do the Honeysuckle flowers begin to gleam in the shadows and pour out lavish streams of fragrance. For the Honeysuckle is primarily a flower of the night, little as this is generally realised. Take a spray of Honeysuckle just about to burst into flower. The deep creamy buds, closely set together, stand upright side by side, each a tube an inch or more long, thickening and crimson-tinted towards the tip. About seven o'clock in the evening those which are to flower that day suddenly relax the narrow under-lobe of their corolla, and it curls backwards; the wide, upper lobe, edged with four teeth, quickly follows suit; the stamens spread apart like the fingers of a hand, and within a space of two or three minutes the bud has become a full-blown flower. Further, it has moved from its upright position to a horizontal one so that, as the inner side of the creamy petals is quite white, the now wide-open mouth of the trumpet-shaped flower becomes at once conspicuous in the deepening twilight. Out of it project five long stamens with see-sawing pollen boxes on their ends, and also a very long column from the little ovary right away beyond the bottom of the petal tube, but while the stamens are fixed like bayonets, this column droops for the time being. Honey pours into the tube from glands on the walls, and wells up until it may be half full; meanwhile the flower puts forth its utmost power of scent. This, then, is the position of affairs this first night of its life.
Now the visitors it specially caters for are the hawk-moths, especially the Privet and Convolvulus Hawk-moths, for they have very long probosces which can dive to the bottom of its very long tube. And these insects themselves are particularly attracted by the Honeysuckle. Kerner gives an interesting glimpse into their ways. He describes how in a certain garden there was a Honeysuckle plant which was regularly visited at dusk on summer evenings by Convolvulus Hawk-moths. He noticed that after they had sucked the honey they were accustomed to settle near the plant on the bark of old tree trunks, or on fallen leaves, and there remain with folded wings as if benumbed until the next evening. One day he picked up carefully one of these pieces of wood with a moth on it, marked the insect slightly with cinnabar, and carried it, the moth never moving, to a distant part of the garden three hundred yards away. When twilight fell the hawk-moth began to wave the feelers, by which it smells, hither and thither a few times, then stretched its wings and flew like an arrow through the garden towards the Honeysuckle. He followed, and there was his cinnabar-marked moth hovering over the flowers and sucking the honey. It must have been able to smell the Honeysuckle fragrance even at that great distance, and had flown straight to it directly the Honeysuckle made its fragrant appeal. In sucking the honey the moth is bound to rub its breast against the tilting pollen boxes, and so gets well dusted with the pollen. The microscope shows that every grain of the dust is covered with needle-like prickles, so that it sticks on the soft fluff of the moth's body.
During the second day of the flower's life certain changes happen. The inside of the petals and, in fact, the whole flower, turns yellowish, the upper and under lip of the corolla roll round further backwards, and the tube arches itself. The stamens are drooping, and probably empty of pollen, but the long ovary column has raised itself, and now, in its turn, projects bayonet-like. The net result is that the flower will no longer be as conspicuous in the dusk as it was the previous night. Both these stages can plainly be seen in any bunch of Honeysuckle. As the twilight falls again sweet fragrance is once more poured out lavishly, and moth visitors respond to the invitation. But, naturally, they fly first to the more conspicuous flowers - the younger ones, and our day-old flower, though still offering plenty of honey, will only be I; heir second choice. Still that exactly suits the plant's plans, for the moths rub their pollen-dusted breasts on the stigma - the end of the ovary column - which is in the position that the stamens were twenty-four hours ago. Thus is fertilisation effected. The flowers now become a still deeper colour - almost orange - the scent ceases, and finally the petals, stamens and ovary column fall off altogether, leaving behind just a collection of minute seed-cases wrapt up in the tiny green calices. These seed-cases now rapidly swell and, first green, then a vivid orange-scarlet, they become luscious semi-transparent fruits, maybe as large as peas. One old writer tells us that "the ripe seed gathered and dried in the shadow and drunk removeth wearisomenesse."
Mr. Step points out that these clustered flowers of the Honeysuckle are a half-way house, as it were, between ordinary single flowers, as a pea, and composite flower blooms, such as the daisy. Indeed their calices and their ovaries are often definitely attached in pairs.
The woody twining stem of the Honeysuckle is one of the very few that increase in thickness, and it always twists from left to right. Often it presses very hardly upon the trees and shrubs round which it twines. "It groweth in woods and hedges and upon shrubbes and bushes, oftentimes winding it selfe so straight and hard about that it leaveth his print upon these things so wrapped," says Gerard, and Shakespeare's allusion, "So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle gently entwist the maple," is distinctly optimistic.
The leaves have no stalks and arise in pairs. They are very sensitive to the direction of light, and it should be noticed that in whatsoever direction the stem may be growing the leaves upon it will always arrange themselves so that their upper surface will directly receive the light. Hence, we find them making all manner of angles with the twisting stems. Tinged with red, they are some of the earliest to appear in the spring.
Culpepper, writing in King Charles II.'s reign, makes some quaint remarks about this plant. "Doctor Tradition," he says, "that grand introducer of errors... hath taught the common people to use the leaves or flowers of this plant in mouth-water, and by long continuance of time, hath so grounded it in the brain of the vulgar, that you cannot beat it out with a beetle... but come to Doctor Experience, a learned gentleman.... Take a leaf and chew it in your mouth, and you will quickly find it likelier to cause a sore mouth and throat than to cure it." But he goes on, "It is fitting a conserve made of the flowers of it were kept in every gentlewoman's house; I know of no better cure of an asthma than this;... if you please to make use of it as an ointment, it will clear your skin of morphew, freckles and sun-burnings, or whatever else discolours it, and then the maids will love it."
This plant was given its botanical name Lonicera to keep green the memory of Adam Lonicer, a clever German botanist who lived in the sixteenth century at Frankfort. Its old English name of "Caprifoy" was due to the belief that goats eat the foliage with special liking. "Woodbine," or "Woodbind" as it used to be written, of course refers to its habit of embracing other stems, and this, together with its fragrance, has made it specially beloved by poets, who have seen in it an emblem of steadfast affection. Chaucer used it thus, making those crowned with
"Such as never were
To love untrue, in word, ne thought, ne dede;
But ay steadfast."
It belongs to the family of the Capvifoliaceæ, and has the elder and the guelder rose for near relatives.
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near honeysuckle in Knolik
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