Photographer: Karan A. Rawlins Affiliation: University of Georgia Source: Bugwood.org Copyright: CC BY NC 3.0 US
Exists as an evergreen shrub or small tree. Escaping from cultivation and established in fencerows, abandoned pastures, and low woodlands. Twigs are greenish brown to gray, without hairs but with raised, corky dots (lenticels). Leaves opposite, with petioles; blade firm textured, ovate to elliptic, up to 4 1/2 inches long and 2 inches wide pointed at the tip, and with smooth margins, upper surface dark green, smooth, glossy; lower surface lighter with a prominent, yellow, main vein. Flowers white, about 1/4 inch wide, petals bent back, in broad, dense clusters up to 8 inches long. Fruit berrylike, dark blue, 5/16 inch long and 1/4 inch wide, hanging on into winter.
Ligustrum japonicum commonly forms dense thickets in fields or forest understories. It shades and out-competes many native species, and once established is very difficult to remove. It is listed as a Federal and Texas Department of Agriculture Noxious Weed, and is a Prohibited Exotic Species by TPWD.
Japanese privet can colonize by root sprouts, and can spread its distribution by animal dispersed seeds, particularly birds. Seeds dispersed by animals has allowed this plant to escape cultivation. Flowers bloom in summer from June-July. The black fruits contain 1-4 seeds, ripen during September and October, and can persist through the winter. Mature specimens can produce hundreds of fruit!
Possibly as far back as 1794, it was imported from Korea (and later Japan), as an ornamental for yards and gardens in the Southern United States. Consequently, like most invasive plants will, it escaped cultivation and naturalized itself throughout the region.
Japan and Korea
U.S. Habitat: Temperate regions in the Southern states, and California. It can co-occur with Chinese privet (Lingustrum sinense), but generally not as abundant, depending upon location. Invade both lowland and upland habitats, but usually more prevalent in lowlands. Shade tolerant, and can tolerant a wide range of soil types.
U.S. Present: AL, CA, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, OK, PR, SC, TN, TX, VA
To see a county distribution map provided by EDDMapS click here
Resembles the Chinese privet other Lingustrum sinense but that species has smaller and thinner leaves. Also resembles plants of the Photinia genus and Carolina laurel cherry (Prunus caroliniana), which have similar evergreen, but alternate, leaves with finely toothed margins.
Native Alternatives: Morella cerifera (wax myrtle), Ilex vomitoria (yaupon), Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry), Rhus virens (evergreen sumac), Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush), Malpighia glabra (wild crapemyrtle).
In order to prevent this invasive plant from settling on your property, do not plant it! Also, remove any plantings that are there quickly. It can be managed by cutting, mulching, and bulldozing but ONLY when fruit are not present. Bag and dispose of fruit in a dumpster or burn. Also, you can manually pull and tree wrench when the soil is moist, but you must make sure all roots are removed. These plants can be readily eaten by sheep and goats, if you’re in a rural setting. Chemical treatment such as Glyphosate and Triclopyr also work, especially when new plants are young enough that they haven’t undergone seed formation. Additionally, tree injections can help reach and destroy the lower part of the main stem on larger privets.
USE PESTICIDES WISELY: Always read the entire pesticide label carefully, follow all mixing and application instructions and wear all recommended personal protective gear and clothing.
Contributions from Texas Invasives for this species page are greatly appreciated.
Miller, J.H. 2003. Nonnative invasive plants of southern forests: a field guide for identification and control. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-62. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 93 pp (USDA SRS)
Miller, J.H., E.B, Chambliss, N.J. Loewenstein. 2010. A Field Guide for the Identification of Invasive Plants in Southern Forests. General Technical Report SRS-119. Asheville, NC. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 126 p.
Alfred Rehder. 1967. Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs: Hardy in North America, the MacMillan Co., New York.
Bailey, L.H. and E.Z. Bailey, Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada, MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., New York , (1977).)