There are no species of Ligustrum native to the U.S. Privets have been introduced to the U.S. since the 1800s and some species even earlier. They are commonly used as hedges in yards, gardens and other landscapes from which they have escaped and are now well established in the wild. Privets form dense thickets that shade out and take the place of native shrubs and herbaceous plants. The shady thickets make conditions unsuitable for native seedlings. Phenolic compounds in the leaves protect plants from leaf-feeding insects which include native herbivorous species.
Privets are deciduous or semi-evergreen shrubs that grow from 8-20 ft. tall. Their trunks have multiple stems with long leafy branches. The presence or absence of hairs and type of hairs on stems is helpful in distinguishing species. Privet leaves are opposite, simple, entire, short-stalked, ranging in length from 1-3 in. and varying in shape from oval, elliptic to oblong.
In the late spring to early summer, privet produces small, white and tubular flowers with four petals that occur in clusters at branch tips. Privet produce small blue-black fruit.
Small plants can be dug out pulled out by hand or with the help of a mattock. Larger plants can be cut repeatedly or treated with a systemic herbicide. Herbicide can be sprayed on foliage or applied to bark or cut stems and stumps (see Control Options). No biological controls are available for any of these species. Known pests that affect privets include a foliage-feeding insect native to Europe (Macrophya punctumalbum), a fungal leaf spot (Pseudocercospora ligustri) and a common root crown bacteria (Agrobacterium tume-faciens).
What Can You Do?
Do not plant privets!