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Scientific Name:

Common Name:

Ligustrum sinense Lour.
Chinese privet
Family: Oleaceae

USDA Plant Code: LISI

Habitat: Terrestrial; fields, rights-of-way, open forest

Growth Habit: Perennial Tree, Shrub

Native Environment: China


Mature Chinese Privet Along a Fence Row
Problems Caused
Several species of privet have been introduced in the US since the 1700s, as garden plants and hedges, for which they are very effective. These non-native shrubs, which are difficult to distinguish from one another, include: common privet (L. vulgare L.), glossy privet (L. lucidum Ait. f.), Japanese privet (L. japonicum Thunb.), and Chinese privet (L. sinense Lour.). Chinese privet is thought to have been introduced in 1952. The Ligustrum species easily escape cultivation to invade adjacent areas, where they can form dense monocultural thickets. As a result, they now are established throughout the eastern part of the country.

The privets as a group are so widespread that they have been omitted from US and regional noxious species legislation. In the southeast, Chinese privet is included in all state invasive species lists. It is considered one of the top ten weeds in AL and GA, a severe threat in KY, SC, and TN, a Category One invasive plant in FL, and is included in the state invasive plant lists of MS and VA.


Vegetative Growth
Ligustrum sinense resembles Japanese privet, L. japonicum, the latter of which has larger and thicker leaves and generally is much less common in the MidSouth, though the two overlap in most of their US distributions.

Chinese privet is a semi-evergreen to evergreen, thicket-forming shrub capable of reaching heights of 9m (30 feet). It tends to be multiple stemmed, with densely foliated branches that form very dense canopies. Stems may be opposite or whorled (more than two side branches per node), with branches often projecting outward at near right angles. The bark tends to be brownish gray with light colored lenticels and may become gray green and develop rusty or grayish pubescence (short, velvety hairs) with age. Leaves are opposite on the stems, at near right angles to stem, and usually ovate to elliptic with a rounded tip (which often is minutely indented). They measure approximately 2 to 4cm (0.8-1.6in) long and 1 to 3cm (0.4-1.2in) wide, with entire margins. The blades generally are lustrous green above and pale green with a hairy midvein beneath.

Mature Drupes on Chinese Privet Plants
Ligustrum sinense flowers during April to June, producing abundant, terminal and sub-terminal axillary clusters of fragrant white flowers on short branches that thus form dense panicles at the ends of branches. The corolla is four-lobed, and stamens extend beyond the corolla. Fruit can be seen from July to March in dense clusters of ovoid drupes that hang on the stem or project outward. Drupes are 6 to 8mm (0.2-0.3in) long and 4mm (0.16in) wide, and contain one to four seeds. Fruit are light green in summer and turn dark purple to black in late fall to winter.

Privets grow readily from seed or from root and stump sprouts. These species escape cultivation by movement of seed, which is eaten and subsequently transported by wildlife, especially birds. Despite a reportedly low germination rate (5%-25%), the privets are highly effective dispersers and can be found in abundance in disturbed areas such as field and forest edges and urban and suburban environments.

Spread By
Human dispersal is largely by planting Japanese privet as an ornamental plant in landscaping.


Chinese privet is a highly aggressive and troublesome exotic shrub, often forming dense thickets beneath which little to no understory is present. It can be found in bottom-land forests and along fencerows, where it gains further access to forests, fields, and rights-of-way. This species may occur as single plants or in thickets, frequently occurring in the same habitats as Japanese privet but more frequently and in greater abundance than the latter. Chinese privet will colonize by abundant bird- and other animal-dispersed seeds, after which it can spread vegetatively by vigorous root sprouting. Once established, it is exceedingly difficult to control.


United States
Chinese and Japanese privet are found from Texas to Massachusetts, with L. sinense having the broader range of the two, covering about fifteen states.

In the MidSouth, Chinese privet is quite well documented in herbaria, having been collected in approximately half the counties of AR and MS, and almost every parish of LA. This species should be better documented, however, in AL and TN.

IPAMS Surveys:

Control Methods

No biological controls are currently available for Chinese privet.

Chemical Control Options for Chinese Privet
Herbicide Method Rate
glyphosate Foliar spray, Broadcast 2% solution
triclopyr Foliar spray, Broadcast 2% solution
Basal, cut stump, frill 20% solution applied directly to plants
imazapyr Frill or soil application 2 to 6 pints per acre
metsulfuron Foliar spray, Broadcast 1 to 3 ounces per acre
fosamine ammonium Foliar spray, Broadcast 1.5 to 6 gallons per acre
hexazinone Soil application 2 to 4 gallons per acre
2,4-D + 2,4-DP Foliar spray, Broadcast 1 to 5% solution
Basal, cut stump, frill 3 to 4% solution
imazapyr + glyphosate Foliar spray, cut stump, frill 1 to 2 gallons per acre
Imazapyr + metsulfuron Foliar spray, Broadcast 25 ounces per acre
Several herbicides are effective in controlling Chinese privet including 2,4-D, 2,4-DP, glyphosate, imazapyr, triclopyr, metsulfuron, fosamine ammonium, and hexazinone. Herbicide applications can be made directly to plant foliage, at the base of stems, cut stumps, frill applications, and to the soil around Chinese privet. There are several different formulations of the same herbicide available as well as herbicide mixes that can be used to control Chinese privet, so always read herbicide labels prior to applications. Basal herbicide applications can be made to the lower 20 inches of the stem using an appropriate herbicide adjuvant such as a crop oil. Basal applications are more effective on stems 6 inches in diameter or smaller. Cut stump applications are made to stumps immediately after cutting. Frill applications are made by cutting the outer layer of bark and cambium and applying the herbicide to the cut areas.

Hand pulling of young seedlings will prevent future seed production. Cutting or mowing mature plants prior to seed production will prevent seed dispersal and subsequent plant growth. However, any stumps or large shoots that are cut need to be treated with an appropriate herbicide to prevent the regrowth of plants from stumps.

Shading may prevent seed production, but will not kill the plant.


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 p. Online resource at accessed [27 June 2007].

Miller, J. H., E. B. Chambliss, C. T. Bargeron. 2004. Invasive Plants of the Thirteen Southern States. Invasive and Exotic Species of North America. Online resource at accessed [27 June 2007].

Remaley, T. and C. Bargeron. 2003. Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council Invasive Plant Manual. Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council. Online resource at accessed [27 June 2007].

Swearingen, J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker. 2002. Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 82 pp. Online resource at accessed [27 June 2007].

USDA, NRCS. 2007. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. Online resource at accessed [27 June 2007].

More Information

Alien Plant Database

Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk (HEAR) Project

Southeast Exotic Plant Pest Council

Southern Weed Science Society


Contributing Authors

Dr. John D. Madsen, Geosystems Research Institute, Mississippi State University
Ryan M. Wersal, Geosystems Research Institute, Mississippi State University

Contact Info

Dr. Gary N. Ervin
Mississippi State University
Department of Biological Sciences
Box 9627
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9627
Ph. (662)325-1203

Geosystems Research Institute
Contact: John D. Madsen, Ph.D.  •  WebMaster