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Privet

Broad-lf privet flowers

Broad-lf privet fruit

Broad-lf privet bark

Narrow-lf privet flowers

Narrow-lf privet fruits

Narrow-lf privet seedlings & Br-lf privet leaves

European privet flowers

European privet fruits

European privet plant

Lillypilly fruits

Grey myrtle flowers

Camphor laurel fruits

Camphor laurel leaves

Koda, native tree

   


Family:

Oleaceae

Status:

All privets (Ligustrum species) are very invasive environmental weeds, particularly on the coast, but Broad-leaf privet (Ligustrum lucidum) is declared noxious in the Southern Tablelands and South East Region only in Shoalhaven LCA, in class 4, as is narrow-leaf or small-leaf privet (Ligustrum sinense).

Description:

Privets are evergreen shrubs or small trees to about 7 metres high. Bark is smooth and grey, with raised white dots (lenticels) on the bark. These are most obvious on young branches. Leaves are glossy, in opposite pairs, oval in shape, to 13 cm long in broad-leaf privet and 7cm in narrow-leaf privet. Sprays of small white flowers occur at the branch tips, followed by large clusters of small (4-7mm), fleshy black fruits. Broad-leaf privet flowers in summer and narrow-leaf privet in spring.

Preferred habitat and impacts:

Popular as a hedge plant in old gardens, the privets spread from old farmhouses and around towns. Gullies and creek banks are a favoured habitat. Birds can carry the seed well into the bush. Annual seed production is enormous.

The dense shade cast by the privets suppresses all other vegetation except for shade-loving weeds. Both leaves and fruits are poisonous to humans.

Dispersal:

Birds and other animals. Seed dumped in garden waste. Root suckers can come up after the parent plant is removed.

Look-alikes:

Small-leaf, narrow-leaf or Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) is similar to large-leaf privet, but tends to be a shrub, although it can reach small tree size in favourable situations.  It has smaller leaves and flowers in spring, but is otherwise very similar.  European privet (Ligustrum vulgare) is more often seen on the tablelands.  It is a dense shrub usually about one metre high with sparser, rounded leaves and small clusters of black berries. 

 Several native rainforest trees have similar glossy leaves in opposite pairs and could occur in the same shady moist situations as privets on the coast. The most similar are lillypilly (Acmena smithii) and grey myrtle (Backhousia myrtifolia). These also have terminal sprays of white or cream flowers, but not the black fruits which distinguish the privets. Lillypilly has purple or whitish-pink fleshy fruits and grey myrtle does not have fleshy fruits at all. The weedy tree camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) also has glossy leaves and black fruits, but its leaves are not in opposite pairs and they are conspicuously 3-veined from the leaf base.  Its black fruits are in smaller clusters than those of large-leaf or small-leaf privet.

A native tree, koda (Ehretia acuminata) has long terminal sprays of small berries which could be mistaken for privet when still green, but they ripen to orange, and the leaf margins are toothed.  It grows in rainforest and moist areas like river banks north from Bega.

Control:

Cut and paint or stem-inject. Seedlings can be hand-pulled. Seedling growth is likely to be very prolific when mature plants are killed, and will probably need to be sprayed. However, seed viability is limited to a couple of years in the soil, so seedling regrowth will be confined to this period (unless birds import more seed).