Small Leaf Privet

(Also known as Narrow-leaf Privet, Chinese Privet)

Ligustrum sinense

Family: Oleaceae

Type of weed:

Flowering Months: , , ,

Description

A branching, densely leafed evergreen shrub/small tree up to 5 m tall. Stems are woody and are light brown.

Oval leaves are 2–5 cm long and 1.5–2.5 cm wide and end in a pointed tip.

Abundant small, white, and strongly scented tubular flowers produced in clusters in late spring to summer.

The fruit is a blue-black oval berry at maturity in winter, green prior to maturity.

Don’t confuse with…

Privet be confused with the native Grey Myrtle (Backhousia myrtifolia). They grow in similar habitats, but the native myrtle has oil glands in its leaves (clearly visible when the leaf is held up to the sun). Also, when crushed Grey Myrtle leaves smell similar to their relatives, the eucalypts.

Dispersal

One plant can produce up to a million seeds. Seed is spread by fruit-eating birds, and is also washed down waterways. The plant can also layer and sucker.

Impact on bushland

The plant is usually found in moist, nutrient rich sites such as gullies where it grows thickly and shades out native plants and transforms the habitat into a weed plume.

Once the fast-growing seedlings establish, privet’s well developed matted, fibrous root systems deprive native plants of nutrients and moisture. The ability to block out light prevents germination of native seeds, and because privet lowers temperatures, privet plumes can result in the death of some established eucalypts.

Distribution

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Alternative planting

Native plants

Watercourses:

  • Long-leaved Lomatia (Lomatia myricoides)
  • Water Gum (Tristania neriifolia)
  • Swamp Baekia (Baekia linifolia)

Hedging:

  • Lillypilly (Acmena smithii)
  • Woolly Tea Tree (Leptospermum grandifolium)

Council provides a tool, on its Mountain Landscapes website, to help you choose native alternative plantings. Choose your village, soil, vegetation community and the purpose of your planting, and the tool will give you suggestions.

There are native nurseries in several Blue Mountains villages, including Glenbrook, Lawson and Katoomba. Please also ask at your favourite local nursery.

Control

Because the berries are spread by birds, treat plants before they fruit. Alternatively, bag the berries and place in a hot compost to kill the seeds. Other plant parts can be spread out to dry off the ground. Once dead they will decompose in place, or may be composted.

If planning a staged removal of privet on a slope or creek bank, to avoid erosion, the main stem can be cut at apprioximately 1 m above the ground and not poisoned. This keeps the roots alive to stabilise the soil. Once replacement plants are established, the stems can be treated with herbicide as above.

For more info

For key points on these techniques: