Linnaea borealis
(Utah Honeysuckle)

Subclass: Asteridae
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Family Description:
Key Characteristics:
shrub, 1-2 m tall; deciduous, opposite leaves; flowers pale yellow, in axillary pairs
  • deciduous, opposite, ovate to elliptic-oblong, pale and glaucous beneath, 2-6 cm long
  • short petiolate, obtuse to broadly rounded at apex, sometimes cordate at base glabrous top surface,
  • glabrous to hirsute on lower surface
  • ochroleucous or light yellow, 10-20 mm long
  • paired, obscurely or scarcely bilabiate, the slightly unequal.
  • Lobes shorter than the tube hairy within with a short, thick spur at base axillary peduncles 5-15 mm long
  • 2 minute bracts at apex
  • two loculed ovaries of flower and ultimately the fruits united only at the base
  • bright red, up to 1 cm in diameter

General Description:
This shrub is commonly about 1 meter tall, but can grow to two meters. Its opposite pale leaves are glaucous on the lower surface. The ochroleucous or light yellow, 10-20 mm long, funnelform flowers grow in pairs and result in bright red fruits which are slightly united at their bases. The flowers are only slightly or not at all bilabiate. None of the books on edible and poisonous plants mention this species. However, the commonly cultivated species, Lonicera tatarica is described as follows:

Lonicera poisoning is considered extremely serious. Recovery in non-fatal cases is prolonged, generally 3 days or more. Shortly after ingestion there is severe and persistent emesis, colic and diarrhea. There is a sensation of blood rushing to the head. The face, particularly the eyelids, becomes reddened. There is mydriasis and photophobia. Shock-like symptoms develop, including cold sweat, and tachycardia. Whether the cardiac rhythm disturbances are related to hypotension or are intrinsic reaction to the toxins has not been investigated. There is a twitching of the limbs which may be followed by convulsions. Terminally there is respiratory depression and death in coma. The nature of the toxins in the berry of the honey suckles is unknown. Intoxications differ from the other members of this group in that non-shock related systemic reactions can be observed.

Southern British Columbia to northern California, east to Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah, but east of the Oregon Coast ranges.

Moist, woodlands or open slopes at moderate to rather high elevations.

The bright red fruits are enticing to children who often get sick from eating them.
The members of the genus have different properties. Some have emiticocathartic properties. The seeds of some are diuretic. The herbage of the true honeysuckle was a favorite food of goats, thus the old name Caprifolium which means goat leaf (Capri = goat, folium = leaf). The berries of some species was used as a food for chickens and birds are reported to eat them during difficult times, but they are said to be purgative and emetic. The name Lonicera was given by Linnaeus in honor of Adam Lonicer, a physician and naturalist, born at Marburg in 1528, who wrote, among opther works, the Naturalis Historiae Opus novum, which contains much curious information about plants (1992 Grieve, Mrs. M A modern Herbal.) In some species, a syrup was made from the flowers and used as an expectorant and laxative. Also some were said to have properties for treating respiratory and spleen problems

Important State References:
No information available at this time
Photos and Information written by Dr. Karl E. Holte,© 2002