A bough of pink flowers droops down at me from the nearby tree. But I’m not looking at a blooming branch; the narrow, twining stem is tough but not woody enough to stand this high on its own. Here is a pink honeysuckle, or Lonicera hispidula. The whorled cluster of flowers perches at the end of the vine, right at eye-height. They don’t always grow this way (I’ve seen them at ankle level alongside trails) but I got lucky this time with an easy view of the pretty flowers.
The upper petal is a soft, rosy pink and is dramatically rolled back. Five stamens are on prominent display, waiting for a passing bumble bee or hummingbird. Each stamen is T-shaped, with the brown bar of the anther dusted in pollen and delicately balanced on the greenish-yellow filament. This vine is often recommended for native plant gardens because it is so attractive to birds. Hummers love the sweet nectar, and other birds feast on the berries.
Honeysuckle is easy to recognize even when it isn’t blooming because the pattern of leaves is distinctive. The oval leaves are paired, and often fuse together into a disc around the stem when they are young. More mature leaves are separate, but often have a small leaflet at their base that is fused to the stem.