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Leycesteria formosa - Wall.
Common Name Himalayan Honeysuckle
Family Caprifoliaceae
USDA hardiness 10-11
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Scrub and shady forests, often by streams, to 3000 metres[51].
Range E. Asia - China to the Himalayas. An occasional garden escape in Britain.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Bloom Color: Red, White. Main Bloom Time: Early fall, Late summer. Form: Oval.

Leycesteria formosa Himalayan Honeysuckle

Leycesteria formosa Himalayan Honeysuckle
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of shrub
Leycesteria formosa is a deciduous Shrub growing to 2.5 m (8ft) by 2.5 m (8ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7. It is in flower from Jun to September, and the seeds ripen from Oct to November. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.


Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible Uses:

Fruit? - one unconfirmed report said that the fruit is edible. In the better forms, the fully ripe and very soft fruit is very sweet with a treacle-like flavour, though in other forms it has a very bitter taste and is not very desirable[K].
Medicinal Uses
Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

None known
Other Uses

The hollow stems can be made into whistles and flutes[146, 158].
Cultivation details
Landscape Uses:Seashore, Specimen, Woodland garden. Succeeds in most fertile soils, preferably of a woodland nature[1, 11]. In Britain it grows better in full sun than in shade[11]. Tolerates limy soils[200]. Tolerates urban pollution, maritime conditions and windswept locations[200], though not full maritime exposure[K]. This species is hardy to -15°c[184], it can be cut to the ground in severe winters but usually resprouts from the base[200]. The flowers, which are delicately scented, are borne at the end of the current season's growth[245]. Birds, especially pheasants, are very fond of the fruit[11, 182]. Plants frequently self-sow when growing in suitable conditions[182]. Plants do not normally need pruning though weak shoots can be cut back to ground level in the spring in order to encourage more vigorous growth[188]. Special Features:Attracts birds, Not North American native, Naturalizing, Wetlands plant, Attractive flowers or blooms.
Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in late autumn[78]. Very easy when done this way[11], it germinates in the spring. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer or following spring. Stored seed requires a period of cold stratification and can take more than a year to germinate. Sow it as soon as possible in a cold frame. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Plant out in spring. Good percentage[78]. Cuttings of mature wood, 20 - 25cm with a heel, planted in open ground in October/November. Good percentage[78]. Cuttings of greenwood in spring in a frame[1]. Division in autumn[200]. Very simple, plant the divisions out direct into their permanent positions.
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
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Expert comment
Botanical References
Links / References
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Readers comment
Elizabeth H.
Hans Perneel Mon Dec 04 14:40:59 2000
I have grown a plant called Leycesteria formosa, and this plant is edible (I eat it about 2 years and I'm stil alive and well) it has a special taste a bit like burnt sugar (dont know the name on english) fruits very well ,and in fact it is plenty on fruit now and into the database, they say they dont know this, i should say try it its very good but must be fully ripe (dark brown berry's).
Elizabeth H.
Ellen Rumwell Thu Jul 13 21:13:21 2000
..Some bits of the preceding information is so different from what I've experienced with the plant; I just wanted to share my "truths"!. This is of my favorite plants EVER. It can actually *grow quite large*..I've never let it just "go" completely, but I'd guess it woudl get to about 10'tall x 5-6' wide. Without pruning definatly shrubby..with long kind of graceful stalks mixed with shorter, straighter ones..The long cascading flowers are FABULOUS.. in full flower, as flower and berry combo.. and when all the flowers fall and it's just a cascade of red berries. Beautiful. It also *grows quite happily in my bog!*..Very heavy clay soil that is frequently puddled (I live in Seattle). *You can also hedge it*. Within a day or two of any cut there is incredible foliage growth..so in peak growing time I think it would make a fairly thick barrier. So...while cutting frequently will give you thicker and thicker foliage-- you lose some of the flowering..Flowers are much more prolific on relatively untended branches. I have also been entirely incapable of propigating it. I've tried most methods..but have gotten nowhere!

..In synopsis: this is a great plant for this area!. It is also fairly rare, and a good piece to show neighbors. I highly recommend it for all zones that can give it enough water and keep it out of day-long direct sun. I have it planted mainly with houtuynia with spots of yellow iris and the cardinal red lobelia...

Elizabeth H.
Martin marsh Tue Aug 1 22:02:00 2000
didn't realy understand the above tables, is there a key? any way,about the plant.I am growing it in Telford Shropshire U.K. I was given it as a cutting from my father who grows it in dorset U.K. It didnt do much the first year,but it's now in its second year and its doing fine. its now upto 7 feet high and in flower. I think it is a very under rated plant which will do well in most gardens. I have it as the edge of a small water feature (ok so its a big rock with a hole drilled through it) The plants arching, weeping appearance, combined with contrasting greens of old and new foliage offset by the wine/white colour of the flowers complements it well. I shall have to wait and see if turns out to be too large for our small garden, however at the moment its ideal.
Elizabeth H.
Tue Aug 21 11:14:12 2001
Useful plant for screening, will grow happily under trees. Good for plant supports (beware, green material will regrow) and fabulous for pea shooters for the kids. Berries are very palatable and taste of caramel if you pop them out of their skins before eating. Still alive after several years successive feasting. Birds and bees love this plant and so do I, even if it doesn't have much snob appeal!
Elizabeth H.
Greg Clucas Sun May 15 23:51:54 2005
KNOCKOUT! picked up a reference to it in a book about shade tolerant plants and having a spot to fill thought i'd give it a try when i came across it in a local garden centre. It has one of the longest flowering and fruiting periods of all of my plants and a growth habit that makes it ideal at the back of my shade border. Easily kept in check with an occasional prune of any of the arching branches that are getting a little overambitious, I was so impressed that I went and bought two more to put in my front garden to....yes you guessed it...impress the neighbours. BUT WAIT!!! did you know there is now a yellow leaved variety available? Yep! and I snapped up another two plants last summer. Have just planted them out and I'm looking forward to a magnificent display from the contrasting colour combination between the fruits, flowers and the strong yellow leaves. I've tried to propagate last year but didn't take cuttings with a heel so thank you for the tip. It's a profusely branching plant so with a bit of luck I'm going to have potsloads of these by next year. Mind you it's in flower so early in the season that it's not always easy to get the cuttings you need. Go on, try it...you know you want to. What really suprised me was how cheap the plants were to buy so it can't be that difficult to propagate although I did notice on another website that it's something of a weed in South Australia! I live in North West England and grow the plant on a heavy clay soil with plenty of added compost and the plant stands in a semi shaded position and also gives dappled shade to a couple of hosta's and a big ligularia.
Elizabeth H.
Fri Feb 17 2006
I can confirm that this plant is an invasive weed in New Zealand.. It is illegal to propagate or sell (not that it needs any help). I own a forest block on the South Island with 22Ha of Radiata Pine (Pinus Radiata) and it grows freely under the trees which are now 15-20m in height. I literally have thousands of these growing wild, which is the reason I came to this site, to see if there were any other uses for this plant. The plants grow in sandy-clay soil in what I imagine is slightly acidic soil due to the pines. They thrive nicely in the shade, so I can confirm its shade tolerance. It does not appear in the more heavily shaded beech forest which surrounds the plantation and seems to appear more in an area which has been previously disturbed. The property is at moderate elevation (300-450m) and the climate is probably comparable to a zone 8 in the US.I have not tried eating the fruit, although that sounds like something I ought to try. I have discovered that the dried stems might make a flute but I wasn't good at my attempt to make one - though it seems suitable. The dried canes might also make good temporary stakes, though not certain of its durability. If anyone has an more ideas of what other uses this plant might have, please pass them along. I was wondering if anyone has considered making a fibre out of it since it is very bamboo-like, I thought it might have the same properties/uses. I might try some more experiments. It would be good to find a way to use of thousands of these plants as they are reported to inhibit the growth of natives. Sorry to rain on anyone's parade of how nice these plants are but they don't belong on an island with unique flora when they are a threat to indigenous plants. I'm sure someone brought them here thinking they looked nice.
Elizabeth H.
Graeme Pettit Wed Nov 1 2006
Commonly spread by birds - will appear as if by magic, and there appear to be a number of forms - some with white in the flowers - others more blood red in colour. Tolerant of heavy clay soils and damp sites - if you must cultivate it, chop it hard after flowering - it comes back in the UK.
Elizabeth H.
audrey watt Sun Oct 14 2007
Growing in the NE Scotland right on the sea with wild winds. Was in a pot for 2 years, now in the ground. Flowers well, long lasting. Beautiful and unusual, would recommend anyone try one of these.
Elizabeth H.
Michael Roy Cadwallader Sat Nov 3 2007
Mike Cadwallader 3rd November 2007, this has always been a talking point with my neighbours but I cannot remember how I first came across it. It's one of the most attractive and unusual plants that I have ever had in my garden and I have never seen another anywhere.
Elizabeth H.
Sue Stocker Sun Nov 25 2007
I live in Dorset and in my garden the plant seeds itself even more easily than buddleia. I have one just by my front door and when the leaves fall the bright green canes look wonderful.
Elizabeth H.
mootube Wed Jan 30 2008
I've tried the berries from several specimens of this plant with varying results. It's hard to forget one sample I tried with my young daughter. A strong caramel taste but followed by a burning sensation not unlike chilli from tongue to stomach, which took about 20 minutes to ease. It remains for the best tasting forms to be propagated and improved upon but I think Leycesteria formosa does have a lot of potential as a cultivated fruit. I can even see potential for the chilli-like form as perhaps an original additive for cooking. In the mean time, I'll keep sampling new forms in search of Nirvana, if slightly apprehensively.
Elizabeth H.
Peter Robinson Tue May 27 2008
We moved house a few months ago. It's now Autumn (late May) in Hamilton, NZ and we have one of these just outside our bedroom window. The native birds, especially Whiteyes, have had a fantastic time with the flowers and now fruit. It's been great watching them. I used Stirling Macoboy's "What Flower is That?" to identify the plant, then an internet search found this site. Interesting that it is classed as a weed here in NZ, so will not propagate, but will continue to enjoy watching our bird friends enjoying themselves. May even try eating a berry or two when they are a bit riper.
Elizabeth H.
Mon Jul 21 2008
i have a self sown one. now in 2nd year the ht is 5ft+, width 4.5 ft. if i cut it down in winter would i succeed in trying to grow it as a standard ? or is it too vigorous for this treatment.beautiful addition to any garden.
Elizabeth H.
Charles Thu Dec 11 2008
I have one of these and I live in the Blue Mountains in NSW. Someone told be that they are an abnoxious weed. Can someone help me please
Elizabeth H.
david n Thu Dec 11 2008
http://www.weeds.org.au/cgi-bin/weedident.cgi?tpl=plant.tpl&state=&s=&ibra=all&card=S19 The above site has a map of where this plant is a weed in Australia, it looks like you are just on the edge of "at risk". What is a weed is a matter of opinion, for the opinion of the authorities best to contact your local council (tell them your address at your own risk).

Elizabeth H.
Seamus Fri Apr 24 2009
A word of warning for those of us in the UK, this plant is very invasive. we inherited a large 10acre garden including woodland,this plant can and does pop up all over the place,it grows so rapidly that it can be 1m high before you really notice it. it looks lovely but needs to be kept vigourously in check.
Elizabeth H.
Victoria Clare Sun Aug 23 2009
I think I know why pheasantberries are not well known as edible berries, apart from any variability in flavour - they are a right pain to pick. You have to let them turn brown before they are palatable. Even perfectly ripe they are incredibly squishy and juicy and pop right out of their skins. If you leave them too long they practically liquify and become little more than brown juice in a bag which splatters over your fingers. I think the flavour is sweeter on sunny days. The fruits appear in tiers on large pendulous flower clusters, and the ones on the top tier ripen first, so you can't just grab a whole bunch in one go. Because they are so very soft when ripe, and because they are protected by a large leafy calyx, although the bush produces a lot of fruit for its size, it's quite timeconsuming to pick more than a few of them. I picked 3 oz and it seemed to take ages!
Elizabeth H.
Nikki Sewell Wed Aug 26 2009
Nikki, Sheffield. I was given a Leycesteria formosa about 3 years ago. It comes back after hard pruning with much vigour. I attract the birds in to my gardens and now I have them growing all over the place. Luckily my neighbours are wanting one for friends of theirs so I will be able to pass them onto people without any effort on my part!
Elizabeth H.
H Baker Sun Sep 6 2009
Mine appeared last year from out of the blue, (avian dispersal) and has grown to a good 3 metre, 10foot giant. I have tried the fruits somilar when ripe to toffee/caramel/burnt sugar Not really 'fruity' An absolute nightmare to pick though, the brown stain from the fruit does not wash out of white cotton shorts. Personally I am more than pleased with my Present from the Skies h
Elizabeth H.
WestSeattle Nick Sat Dec 19 2009
I have grown this plant for the past 4 years, I have one traditional variety and one chartreuse variety. The latter does not grow as vigorously or as tall as the former. Both are quite hardy though. After a hard freeze or prolonged snow if they leaves turn black I cut these to the ground and they always come back. The Woodland Park Zoo here in Seattle has them growing in their woodland areas along the paths and they get 10 feet tall. Great plants. From flowering through fruiting they provide many months of interest, and the Anna's hummingbirds here love them.
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Subject : Leycesteria formosa  

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