Plant: Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) and European privet (L. vulgare) are essentially indistinguishable due to hybridization.
Identification: Thicket-forming shrubs reaching 30 feet tall are semi-evergreen with soft, woody stems and long, leafy branches. Shrubs have opposite or whorled branching that increases upward, with shorter twigs that are long and slender and projecting outward at near right-angles. Branches are brownish gray with light dots (lenticels), becoming hairy (rusty or grayish) and gray-green. Leaf scars are raised and half-circular with one bundle scar. The bark is brownish-gray to light gray and slightly rough (not fissured). Leaves are lustrous green above and pale green and hairy beneath. They are ovate to elliptic, 0.8 to 1.6 inches long and 0.4 to 1.2 inches wide with entire margins and rounded tip (often minutely indented). Flowers, abundant, white, and fragrant, appear in terminal axillary clusters from April to June. Pale green fruits appear in July to March, ripening to dark purple and appearing almost black in winter.
Ecology: Although a traditional ornamental shrub, it is now an aggressive invasive species. Shade tolerant, it forms dense thickets, particularly in bottomland forests and along fencerows, gaining access to forests, fields, and rights-of-way. Colonizes by root sprouts, it can also spread by abundant seed dispersal from birds and other animals.
Herbicide Control: Apply a 41% active ingredient of glyphosate herbicide (Accord, Razor, or Roundup Original) as a 3% solution (12 oz per 3-gal. mix) or a 42+% active ingredient of imazapyr (Arsenal AC, Vanquish, or Polaris AC) as a 1% solution (4 oz per 3-gal. mix) or a 60+% active ingredient of triclopyr (Garlon 4, Remedy, or Tahoe 4E) as a 3% solution in water with a surfactant (methylated seed oil, basal oil, or crop oil) at a 1% solution (4 oz per 3-gal. mix) to thoroughly wet all leaves. For stems too tall for foliar sprays, apply 60+% active ingredient of triclopyr as a 20% solution (5 pints per 3-gal. mix) in water or undiluted Pathfinder II with a surfactant at a 1% solution with a penetrant (check with herbicide distributor) to young bark as a basal spray. Alternatively, cut and immediately treat stumps with a 42+% active ingredient of imazapyr as a 5% solution (20 oz per 3-gal. mix) or an active ingredient of hexazinone (Velpar L) as a 10% solution (1 quart per 3-gal mix) in water with a surfactant at a 1% solution. For safety to surrounding vegetation, immediately treat cut stumps with a 41% active ingredient of glyphosate or a 44.4% active ingredient of triclopyr (Garlon 3A or Tahoe 3A) as a 20% solution (5 pints per 3-gal. mix) in water with a surfactant at a 1% solution.
Warning: The active ingredients of imazapyr and hexazinone can damage plants with roots in the treated area. Always read and follow label directions carefully.
Source: (A Field Guide for the Identification of, A Management Guide for) Invasive Plants in Southern Forests, James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, 2010. Photo Credit: Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, ForestryImages.Org