Invasive Watch: Privet

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Up close view of privet leaves and branches.

We regularly highlight noxious and invasive species, sharing defining characteristics to help you identify it in the field as well as providing treatment recommendations to help you get rid of it. In this Invasive Watch, we feature privet.


Privet (Ligustrum spp.) is a semi-evergreen to evergreen, thicket-forming shrub that typically grows to about 30 feet in height, with smooth bark and slender twigs. While there are almost 50 different species, Chinese (L. sinense), European (L. vulgare) and Japanese privet (L. japonicum) are some of the most common. Chinese and European privet are difficult to distinguish from each other; both species have leafy stems and opposite leaves shorter than 1 inch in length. Chinese privet is semi-evergreen, while European privet is deciduous.

Japanese privet is a thick evergreen shrub with a trunk that usually occurs as multiple stems with many long leafy branches. Leaves are opposite, up to 2 inches long, with a pointed apex and margins that are slightly rolled. Privet species often have conspicuous heads of white flowers that form black berries in the fall.


Privet was introduced to North America in the 1800s as hedges in landscaping. Many privet species are now identified as an invasive species. Privet forms dense thickets in bottomland forests, fencerows, rights-of-way and forest edges. It colonizes by root-sprouting but also is a prolific seed producer, and its seeds are dispersed by birds and animals.


Aggressive resprouting makes it difficult to control privet mechanically. Privet can be effectively controlled with herbicides but requires a commitment to a program approach and can take multiple years to achieve.

To control privet, treat with a low-volume basal or cut-stump application that includes a mixture of 20% to 25% Garlon® 4 Ultra herbicide and 1% Milestone® herbicide in commercially available basal oil. Another good option is a cut-stump application using Vastlan® herbicide at 50% v/v with water. If a foliar treatment is preferred, apply Accord® XRT II herbicide at 2% in the late summer through the fall, if leaves are not browned out or defoliated.


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