Lonicera caprifolium

Lonicera caprifolium

The Italian honeysuckle (Lonicera caprifolium L., 1753) is a shrub species belonging to the Caprifoliaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, United Plantae, Spermatophyta Superdivision, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Asteridae Subclass, Dipsacales Order, Caprifoliaceae Family and then to the genus Lonicera and to the species L. caprifolium.

Etymology –
The term Lonicera was attributed by Linnaeus in honor of the German physician and botanist Adam Lonitzer (Latinized to Lonicerus, 1528-1586), author of a treatise on medicinal herbs.
The specific epithet caprifolium comes from goat and goat fólium leaf: perhaps because they feed on goats.

Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
Italian honeysuckle is a plant native to south-western Europe, sub-Siberian areas and areas around the Black Sea.
The species is widespread in Europe, especially in the Iberian peninsula, in Asia Minor and in the Caucasus.
It is also present in Italy but exclusively in the peninsular area.
Its habitat is represented by the natural areas of the coastal and submontane regions, in the deciduous woods not too sunny where it prefers calcareous soils and grows up to 1200 m s.l.m …
This plant tends to form natural hedges especially associated with chestnut or Turkey oak.

Description –
Lonicera caprifolium is a medium-sized lianosa shrub with woody stems that need other plants to support themselves.
The stems, which are climbing and twining can reach up to 5 meters in extension and in the initial phase of their growth carry many branches due to the presence of multiple and overlapping buds in the axillary areas of the stem.
The young stems are slightly pubescent and have a bark that becomes brown-greenish as it ages.
This plant has ovate – elliptic, deciduous, simple leaves with an entire margin without stipules and opposite, with a consistent but not leathery lamina; the upper page is light green, almost brilliant and the lower is darker with glaucous reflections.
Furthermore the leaves of the branches that do not bear flowers are petiolate and those of the flowering branches present themselves in a different form, a function of where they are inserted: the lower ones are sub-sessile or restricted in a short petiole; the intermediate ones are sessile and semi welded together; the terminal ones appear paired, welded to the base between them to form a single ampelite leaf crossed in the center by the stem.
The flowers are gathered in an inflorescence of about 6 specimens, sessile arranged in bundles inserted in the center of the last pair of leaves with elliptic lamina and cup-shaped leaves.
The flowers, which are scented due to the presence of benzoic-based essences, are labiate in shape, with colors ranging from white to red. These are actinomorphic, hermaphroditic, tetracyclic (calyx – corolla – androceo – gineceo) and pentamer. They are 3-5 cm long. and appear from May to July.
The fruits, which are poisonous, are composed, are small globose berries (bibacche), ovoid, of about 7-8 mm, of red or orange color, containing some flattened seeds.
The pollination of the flowers of honeysuckle is of the entomogamous type and occurs through butterflies, both day and night.
It is mainly the sphinxes and the large hymenopterans like the Bumblebees that pollinate them, which with their long proboscis are able to collect the nectar contained, up to half height, in the long corollino tube.

Cultivation –
The Italian honeysuckle is a rustic plant, which grows easily in temperate climates. This plant prefers a soil rich in humus and a sunny position, but it develops well even in the shade – in any case, it will be good to keep the foot of the plant shaded. Just planted, it requires regular watering; once the bush has taken root well, the water supply of rainy origin will suffice.
It should also be remembered that plants obtained by reproduction by seed bloom only after some years; for this reason it is advisable to multiply by cuttings, both for shrub and climbing species, to be carried out in July-August or in September-October, by rooting portions of stem of about 10 cm in length in a mixture of peat and sand. New plants can also be obtained using the offshoot method, partially burying low and flexible branches, between August and November, taking care to remove them from the mother plant only after rooting, after about a year.
For details of the cultivation technique, see the following sheet.

Uses and Traditions –
Lonicera caprifolium has been known since ancient times for its medicinal properties. In the past, the decoction of its leaves was used to stimulate urinary function. Furthermore, in ancient times the flowers of this plant were attributed propitiatory properties for a good marriage.
In general, the following healing properties are attributed to this plant: antiseptic, antirheumatic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory; for external use its properties are effective in stomatitis and dermatosis.
The most important substances present are: salicylic acid, glucosides, tannins and essential oils.
The parts of this plant are the leaves and flowers, while the use of berries is not recommended as they contain toxic substances.
However, the use of this prevalent plant is that of gardening. In fact, it is in ornamental horticulture that the greatest interest for these plants is concentrated. There are different varieties grown for this purpose with flowers in different colors that are used to coat walls or form pergolas.
Vigorous, rustic and fast-growing creeper plant, it emits long branches that cling to the supports themselves. It blooms profusely throughout the summer with bunches of white tubular flowers. It is used to form flowering hedges, pergolas, verandas, tunnels and to decorate walls of houses, walls and fences. Easy to maintain, it resists both wind and winter cold.
Honeysuckle is also a plant visited by bees for pollen and nectar.

Preparation Mode –
The Italian honeysuckle, as well as for the preparation of infusions for therapeutic purposes, can also be used in the kitchen. From the leaves it is used to prepare an infusion like tea.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is assumed for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.




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