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Taxonomy of L. japonica and its phylogenetic proximity to native New Zealand plants

Japanese honeysuckle belongs to the family Caprifoliaceae, which is within the Order Dipsacales (Fig. 1.); an Order that is not represented in the New Zealand flora [the genus Alseuosmia was formerly considered part of the Caprifoliaceae (Allan 1961), but it is now regarded as the sole genus in the family Alseuosmiaceae and included within the Order Asterales (Gustafsson et al. 1996; angiosperm phylogeny website, accessed 11/8/2010)]. The New Zealand native species most closely-related to L. japonica is Quintinia serrata within the Order Paracryphiales (Fig. 2.), however, this is only very distantly related. Moreover, host records of several candidate biocontrol agents we have identified in Japan indicate their feeding is likely to be confined to the clade containing the Caprifoliaceae, indicating that the limits of their host-ranges should be well separated from NZ natives. Therefore, a test plant list made up of exotic plants within the Dipsacales should be sufficient to delineate the fundamental (i.e. all the plant species that can support development) host-range of candidate Japanese honeysuckle agents in New Zealand.

According to Donahue et al. (2001). The following genera are included in the Caprifoliaceae

There are four genera in the sub-family Caprifolieae:

  1. Lonicera. As well as Japanese honeysuckle, three  other Lonicera spp. are naturalised in New Zealand: Lonicera × americana (Mill.) K. Koch; L. nitida E.H. Wilson; and L. periclymenum L. (, accessed 15/12/2008). There are several cultivars of Lonicera for sale in nurseries in New Zealand, with L. nitida, and L. pileata and their varieties being most commonly available (, accessed 15/12/2008).
  2. Leycesteria, which includes Himalayan honeysuckle Leycesteria formosa, which, like Japanese honeysuckle, is a National Surveillance Plant Pest (Roy et al. 1998).
  3. Symphoricarpos. Two species are naturalised in New Zealand (S. albus and S. orbiculatus). Both are still sold in nurseries.
  4. Triosteum is not present in New Zealand.

The genus Heptacodium is closely-related to the sub-family Caprifolieae

  1. Heptacodium miconoides is sold in New Zealand nurseries (Table 1.).

The sub-family Diervilleae contains two genera

  1. Weigela and Diervilla. The latter Diervilla x splendens (D. lonicera × D. Sessilifolia) has been sold in New Zealand nurseries, but is currently not available (, accessed 11/8/2010). Weigela spp. are readily available from New Zealand nurseries (mainly W. florida and varieties).

The sub-family Linnaeeae contains five genera (Linnaea; Dipelta; Kolkwitzia; Zabelia and Abelia).

  1. Several Abelia species (most commonly Abelia x grandiflora) and Kolkwitzia amabilis are available for purchase from New Zealand nurseries, the latter is also fully naturalised in New Zealand.

Of the more distantly-related families within the Dipsacales, the following are present as naturalised species or available for purchase from nurseries:

Adoxaceae: Comprises five genera, including Sambucus and Viburnum. Several species from these genera are present as naturalised species and available for purchase from nurseries.

Morinaceae: This small family contains three genera, Acanthocalyx, Cryptothladia and Morina. None is naturalised in New Zealand. One species, Morina longifolia is listed as available from New Zealand nurseries (Table 1.).

Valerianaceae: Contains seventeen genera, of which two are naturalised in New Zeland (Centranthus, Valerianella;, accessed 15/12/2008).Red valerian Centranthus ruber is a popular garden flower and is very widely naturalised.

Dipsacaceae: Contains eleven genera, of which three are naturalised in New Zeland (Dipsacus, Pterocephalus, Scabiosa;, accessed 15/12/2008). Wild teasel, Dipsacus sylvestris, is a commonly naturalised weed (Roy et al. 1998).

Table 1. Test-plant list for host-range testing candidate Lonicera japonica biocontrol agents for New Zealand.


Plant family and species
Sub-family Caprifolieae
1   Lonicera japonica
2   L. nitida
3   L. pileata
4   Leycesteria formosa
5   Symphoricarpos sp
6   Heptacodium miconoides
Sub-family Diervilleae
7   Weigela
Sub-family Linnaeeae
8   Abelia sp.
9   Viburnum sp.
Family Morinaceae
10   Morina longifolia
Family Dipsacaceae
11   Dipsacus sylvestris
Family Valerianaceae
12   Centranthus ruber


Allan, H.H. 1961: Flora of New Zealand, I. Wellington, Government Printer. 1085pp.

Gustafsson MHG; Backlund A; Bremer B 1996. Phylogeny of the Asterales sensu lato based on rbcL sequences with particular reference to the Goodeniaceae. Plant Systematics & Evolution 199: 217-242.

Donoghue, M. J., T. Ericksson, P. A. Reeves, and R. G. Olmstead. 2001. Phylogeny and phylogenetic taxonomy of Dipsicales, with special reference to Sinadoxa and Tetradoxa (Adoxaceae). Harvard Papers in Botany 6: 459–479.

Roy, B.; Popay, I.; Champion, P; James, T.; Rahman, A. 1998: An illustrated guide to common weeds of New Zealand. Victoria, Australia, New Zealand Plant Protection Society.

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