Small Leaf Privet

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

Ligustrum sinense

Family: Oleaceae

Type of weed:

Flower colour(s):

Priority Weed Local Priority Weed. (See more weeds of the class.)

Flowering Months: , , ,


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.


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.



Alternative planting

Native plants


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


  • 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.


  • Hand remove
  • Remove flowers, fruit, pods or seeds
  • Spray
  • Stem inject or frill
  • Cut and paint

Manual control

Hand remove

Grasp stem at ground level. Rock weed backwards and forwards to loosen roots, then pull out gently. Carefully tap the roots to dislodge attached soil. Replace disturbed soil and pat down.

  • Leave weeds so that roots do not make contact with soil; on a rock, for instance. A small amount of debris may be hung in a tree or removed from the site.
  • Vary the position of your body to avoid fatigue when removing plants by hand over extended periods.

Remove seeds, pods or fruit

Gently remove any seeds, pods or fruit and carefully place in a bag.

Chemical control

Note: Herbicides that may be used for this weed include Glyphosate.


Please consult the Herbicide page of this website to help you decide whether to spray, how to do it safely and more.

Stem injection or frilling

Stem injection
Drilling holes at 45° and squirting poison into holes
Apply poison immediately after drilling

At the base of the tree, drill holes at a 45° angle into the sapwood (just under the outer bark) at two finger space intervals around the entire base of the tree. Repeat this process below the lowest branch


As an alternative to drilling, make cuts into the sapwood with a chisel or axe. Fill each cut/hole with herbicide immediately. Repeat the process at 3 cm intervals around the tree.


Plants should be healthy and actively growing. Deciduous plants should be treated in spring and autumn when leaves are fully formed. For multi-stemmed plants, inject or chip below the lowest branch or treat each stem individually. Herbicide must be injected immediately before the plant cells close (within 30 seconds before translocation of herbicide ceases.)

Cut and paint

Applying poison to cut stump from squeeze bottle
Apply poison immediately after cutting

Useful for small to medium sized woody weeds up to 10 cm in diameter.

Make a horizontal cut as close to the ground as possible with secateurs or loppers, and immediately apply concentrated Glyphosate to the exposed stump surface. Do not allow the surface to get covered with soil.

Specific control tips for this weed

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 key points on these techniques:

Local Priority Weed

Control measures:

  • The plant should be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed.
  • Plants under 4 metres in height should be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed.
  • The spread of this plant should be adequately contained to prevent spread impacting on priority assets. Weed notices will only be issued for these weeds under special circumstances.