How do you identify it?
The shrub has smooth, light bark and small, oppositely arranged leaves with smooth edges. Chinese privet is evergreen, so its leaves are thick and glossy. Its flowers are small and white, and it has small black fruit.
Why is it invasive?
Chinese privet is spread by birds, allowing it to disperse widely. While it prefers moist soil, it can be found on upland sites as well. In addition to dispersal by birds, it can also spread by suckers. It invades disturbed areas and forms dense thickets that out-compete native plants.
How can you manage it?
Remove small plants by hand-pulling. For larger plants, use triclopyr and glyphosate following all label instructions. These treatments should be monitored the next year to control sprouts and suckers. The N.C. Forest Service has more detailed herbicide information.
Instead of planting privet or any other Ligustrum species, plant mapleleaf viburnum, Viburnum acerifolium. This native shrub grows in shade or partial sun and compliments yards with a dense canopy and a layer of understory trees. The fruit provides food for lots of wildlife, including wild turkey, bluebirds, cardinals, crested flycatchers, brown thrashers, hermit thrushes, cedar waxwings, pileated woodpeckers and white-tailed deer. Flowers and immature fruit provide food for the caterpillar of Henry’s elfin butterfly.
Chinese Privet: How to Control Its Spread (video, North Carolina Tree Farm Program)
Chinese privet is a non-native invasive plant that is found in North Carolina’s forests. Learn how it spreads and what you can do to control and eliminate it from your Tree Farm.
Invasive Species Leaflet IS-02 Ligustrum sinense (North Carolina Forest Service)
Ligustrum sinense was introduced to the United States from China as a garden plant in 1952. It has been widely planted for hedges and has since escaped cultivation and spread throughout the Southeast and Midwest. A single mature L. sinense shrub can produce hundreds of fruits that are a favorite food for a number of bird species. Although L. sinense can spread by suckers, birds are by far the primary dispersal mechanism of this plant.
Control Options for Chinese Privet (Alabama Extension)
Privet control often seems insurmountable because of its aggressive growth, prolific root and stump sprouting, copious seed production and widespread seed dispersal by birds and other animals. However, with the correct approach and diligent follow-up treatments, privet can be effectively controlled.
Chinese Privet (video, University of Florida)
Privet (Penn State Extension)
While privets prefer full sunlight found at forest edges and along fence rows, they are moderately shade tolerant and can invade under a mature canopy. They have a preference for disturbed mineral soil and bottomlands and are often found on sites with rich soils. The management calendar for privet is quite flexible because the foliage emerges early and falls late. Treatments to intact stems or cut stumps provide a year-round window of opportunity.
Privet: Accurate Identification (video, Penn State Extension)
Learn the distinguishing characteristics to help you accurately identify the invasive privet shrubs (Ligustrum spp.).
Plant Guide: Chinese Privet (USDA NRCS)
The greatest threat posed by this species is large-scale ecosystem modification due to its ability to successfully compete with and displace native vegetation. Chinese privet plants mature rapidly and are prolific seed producers. They also reproduce vegetatively by root suckers. Once established, Chinese privet is difficult to eradicate because of its reproductive capacity.
Privet Biology and Management in Southeastern U.S. Forests (video, Southern Regional Extension Forestry) Once a prized landscape shrub, privet has become extremely common in many wooded areas, impacting wildlife, native vegetation and biodiversity. Privet management is essential when reforesting harvested areas.
It’s Time to Get Privet Under Control (Clemson Cooperative Extension, CU in the Woods)
One of the best ways to control privet is with a glyphosate application in late fall to early winter. Typically, around late October /early November until about December is the time frame depending on geographic location in the state. The best time is when desirable plant species you want to keep have gone dormant, yet the privet still has green leaves on its branches and the temperatures are still mild. Avoid cold weather, especially as temperatures begin to get near freezing.