Japanese Privet

Ligustrum is the genus of the wicked privet plants. Common or European privet and Chinese privet have escaped into the wild across the South East and are weedy and invasive. Birds eat the small black fruits and deposit the seeds everywhere. Other Ligustrum species are better landscape plants, but they still spread seeds by dispersal. Privets are grown as hedge plants because they are easy to grow. Clipped hedges bear fewer flowers since shearing removes most flower-bearing branches.
Japanese privet has a rapid growth rate of 25 inches or more per year. This shrub can be used as a hedge or screen for shaping into a small tree. Japanese privet has oval leaves that are glossy green above and almost white beneath. In May the white flowers bloom and have a very strong odor. The blue-black berries mature in September to October and persist into the winter. Birds do not seem to be interested in these berries.
Glossy privet (Ligustrum lucidum) is an evergreen tree that has large clusters of white flowers followed by purple-blue berries. The fruit crop is massive and berries will drop and stain paved areas and cars. The berries will sprout in ground cover and will need pulling. Many people dislike the flower smell.
Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) is an aggressive and troublesome shrub. It is listed as a “severe threat” according to the SC Exotic Pest Plant Council. This exotic shrub produces dense thickets that choke out all native plants. Chinese privet spreads both by root sprouts (rhizomes) and seed production. Birds eat and disperse the fruit during the winter. Variegated Chinese privet is a variegated form of Chinese privet and it does produce flowers and fruit. These shrubs will revert back to the solid green foliage on portions of the plant if not pruned out. The Chinese privet will over-take the variegated sections because of their more rapid growth and will produce more berries dispersed by birds or surface water. It is highly recommended not to plant Chinese or Variegated Chinese privet because of their rapid spread and displacement of native flora.
If privet is planted in your landscape, please remove it. The native plants of South Carolina will thank you.
For more information on ligustrum, please visit the Home and Garden Information Center website at hgic.clemson.edu. Tune in on Tuesday nights to watch “Making it Grow” at 7 p.m. on SCETV or mig.org. E-mail Outen at callenb@clemson.edu.
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