Ligustrum japonicum Thunb.
Plant Type: Shrub
Japanese privet grows 6 to 20 feet (to 6 m) with a dense, upright habit. Can become a small tree.
Bark is relatively smooth and gray, covered with large lenticles (slightly raised corky dots or dashes).
Oppositely branched, twigs are smooth, green to gray-brown, dotted with lots of large, light gray lenticles, and distinctly flattened or four-angled at the leaf nodes. Terminal buds present.
Foliage on Japanese privet is evergreen, opposite, leathery, and lustrous, with smooth margins that are often slightly rolled under. The base is rounded and the tips are rather blunt. They are 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) long and 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm) wide. On the light green leaf underside, 4 to 6 pairs of indistinct veins protrude slightly from the surface. Petiole is light green and 0.2 to 0.4 inch (6-12 mm) long.
Small, four-petaled, creamy white flowers appear in branched, pyramidal clusters at the end of branches in June. Fragrant.
Clusters of oval to rounded berrylike fruits are pale green in summer and ripen to blue black in winter. 0.2 to 0.5 inch (5-12 mm) long and .02 inch (5 mm) wide. Each contains 1 to 4 seeds. Mature specimens can produce hundreds of fruit. July to February.
Photo: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
More images of Ligustrum japonicum
Japanese privet, in the Olive Family (Oleaceae), may appear as a single plant or thicket-forming, occurring in the same habitats as Chinese privet, but generally not as abundant, depending upon location. Colonizes by root sprouts and spreads by abundant bird- and other animal-dispersed seeds. It is adaptable to a variety of soils and has no serious pest or disease problems.
Invades both lowland and upland habitats. Shade tolerant.
Origin and Distribution
Japanese privet is native to Japan and Korea. It was introduced in 1845 and has been widely planted as an ornamental shrub, particularly in the South. Other states where invasive: TX, AR, LA, KY, GA, SC, FL.
*Sources: *Information on this plant page derived primarily from the Tennessee Management Manual and James H. Miller’s Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests, USDA Forest Service.
Mowing/Cutting: This method is appropriate for small initial populations or environmentally sensitive areas where herbicides cannot be used. Repeated mowing or cutting will control the spread of privet, but will not eradicate it. Stems should be cut at least once per growing season as close to ground level as possible.
Hand Pulling: Privet is effectively controlled by manual removal of young seedlings. Plants should be pulled as soon as they are large enough to grasp but before they produce seeds. Seedlings are best pulled after a rain when the soil is loose. Larger stems, up to 6 cm (2.5 in), can be removed using a Weed Wrench or similar uprooting tools. The entire root must be removed since broken fragments may resprout.
Privet has no known biological controls. A foliage-feeding insect native to Europe, Macrophya punctumalbum, is a known pest. Privet is also susceptible to a fungal leaf spot, Pseudocercospora ligustri, and a common root crown bacteria, Agrobacterium tumefaciens.
Foliar Spray Method
This method should be considered for large thickets of privet where risk to non-target species is minimal. Air temperature should be above 65°F to ensure absorption of herbicides. The ideal time to treat is in late fall or early spring when many native species are dormant.
Glyphosate: Apply a 2% solution of glyphosate and water plus a 0.5% non-ionic surfactant to thoroughly wet all leaves. Use a low pressure and coarse spray pattern to reduce spray-drift damage to non-target species. Glyphosate is a nonselective systemic herbicide that may kill non-target partially-sprayed plants.
Triclopyr: Apply a 2% solution of triclopyr and water plus a 0.5% non-ionic surfactant, to thoroughly wet all leaves. Use a low pressure and coarse spray pattern to reduce spray-drift damage to non-target species. Triclopyr is a selective herbicide for broadleaf species. In areas where desirable grasses are growing under or around privet triclopyr can be used without non-target damage.
Cut Stump Method
This control method should be considered when treating individual bushes or where the presence of desirable species preclude foliar application. This treatment is effective as long as the ground is not frozen.
Glyphosate: Horizontally cut privet stems at or near ground level. Immediately apply a 25% solution of glyphosate and water to the cut stump making sure to cover the entire surface.
Triclopyr: Horizontally cut privet stems at or near ground level. Immediately apply a 25% solution of triclopyr and water to the cut stump making sure the entire surface is covered.
Basal Bark Method
This method is effective throughout the year as long as the ground is not frozen. Apply a mixture of 25% triclopyr and 75% horticultural oil to the
basal parts of the shrub to a height of 30-38 cm (12-15 in) from the ground. Thorough wetting is necessary for good control; spray until run-off is noticeable at the ground line.