Get To Know Natives: Kintzley’s Ghost Honeysuckle

"Everything old is new again" applies to the back story of this rediscovered, improved native vine.


Spring Meadow Nursery has added Kintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle (Lonicera reticulata) to its line of Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs. No, it’s not a “new” introduction, says the nursery, but they feel there will be a huge audience clamoring for this one-of-a-kind native honeysuckle. It’s deer-resistant, drought-resistant, attracts pollinators, and is non-invasive—with a highly interesting back story.

According to Missouri Botanical Garden, it was originally discovered and propagated in the 1880s by William “Ped” Kintzley, a professor at Iowa State University. He passed it along to family members thereafter, but it was never formally introduced into commerce. The vine disappeared at one point but was eventually rediscovered growing in the yard of a Kintzley relative in Fort Collins, CO.

In 2001, Scott Skogerboe of Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery was driving down a side street in Fort Collins, according to Plant Select®, when he slammed on his brakes to get a closer look at an unusual plant. At first glance it looked like a silver dollar eucalyptus because it was covered abundantly with silver-dollar sized white disks. Fascinated and curious, Skogerboe went to the door and an elderly gentleman answered and told the tale of this unusual beauty. He said it was a family heirloom. In the 1880’s, the man’s grandfather, William “Ped” Kintzley, had worked in the greenhouses at Iowa State and found this unusual form. He propagated it himself, and over the years, gave plants as gifts to members of the Kintzley family throughout the country. The vine was discovered to be an improved selection of the species.

Kintzley's Ghost Honeysuckle Kintzley's Ghost HoneysuckleIn Spring, Kintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle has foliage that emerges looking like any other honeysuckle, but as it gets going and develops flower buds, unique blue-white, saucer-shaped bracts form around them, and tubular yellow flowers emerge from the center. They have a light scent and attract pollinators, including hummingbirds, but it’s the bracts that people take notice of. They look quite a bit like a silver dollar eucalyptus, as mentioned, and remain effective on the plant until it defoliates in Fall. Flowers fade to reveal glistening red berries in each bract, but not to worry – this North American native species is not invasive and won’t make a nuisance of itself.

  • USDA Zone: 4 – 8
  • Exposure: Full sun, Part sun
  • Height 6-12′
  • Width 5′
  • Type: Deciduous
  • Bloom Time: Early summer
  • Flower Color: Yellow
  • Foliage Color: Green, Blue
  • Soil: Adaptable to most any soil; avoid excessively wet areas.
  • Pruning: Little required. Blooms on old wood but pruning after blooming will remove the most ornamental feature, the blue leaf bracts around the blooms.
  • Uses: Covering trellises, obelisks, railings, fences, and posts. Durable and easy to grow. Vines around structures without intervention.

Photos from Spring Meadow Nursery.

For related reading, see:

Groundcover Alternatives To Mulch 

The Best Drought & Flood Tolerant Plants

Are You Planting Invasives? Here’s Some Alternatives


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