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Privet control

Tree privet (Ligustrum lucidum), and its close relation, Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense), are unwanted pest plant species in New Zealand. They were originally introduced as ornamental and hedging plants. By the 1950s both had escaped home gardens to spread throughout most parts of New Zealand. 

What’s the problem?

Privet is a hardy plant that can tolerate most environmental conditions, making it a very successful weed. Its seedlings grow easily to form a dense carpet, smothering out other species. 

Tree privet can grow as high as taraire and pohutukawa over time, and eventually dominate and replace canopy trees in most forest types. 

Chinese privet is often found growing in clusters in farm hedges, at road and stream edges, in wastelands and along old railway lines, but also in forest remnants where it can displace lower shrubbier natives.  

The privet’s berries and leaves are poisonous to humans and animals and the pollen from its fragrant flowers can trigger allergic reactions.

What does it look like?

Tree privetChinese privet

Tree privet 

  • grows up to 15m
  • oval glossy leaves 
  • produces racemes or clusters of small, cream-coloured fragrant flowers produced from November to March 
  • produces bluish or purplish-black fruit.

Chinese privet 

  • grows up to 5m
  • dull green leaves 
  • produces white, fragrant flowers from September to December. 
  • produces dull black-coloured fruit.

How to get rid of it

  • Physical removal of the entire plant and all fragments to a land fill is the best organic method.
  • Herbicides suitable for privet control include those containing the active ingredient  glyphosate. 
  • For medium to larger shrubs use the STUMP TREATMENT method, where the woody stems are cut back and a herbicide gel is applied to the cut surface area. 
  • For larger trees use the CUT AND INJECT method, where shallow cuts are made around the trunk of the tree with a machete or hatchet and then filled with herbicide gel. Alternatively drill a hole and fill with herbicide gel. 
  • For smaller to medium sized shrubs/trees use a SPRAY, preferably with a penetrant. To get maximum benefit this needs to be done on all leafy surfaces during the active growing season. 

For personal safety please use all herbicides as per manufacturer’s labelling. 

More information

Contact your regional council biosecurity officers to find out about the status of privet where you live, who is responsible for its control and/or advice on how to control it yourself.

Covenantors can contact their QEII regional representative for advice on controlling privet and other weeds.

Visit the Weedbusters website for help and advice on identifying and controlling all types of weeds.

Privet control test case

Privet has been successfully culled in a covenant in Waikato. A year ago a small thicket was cut down and a herbicide gel (‘CutnPaste’) was applied to the stumps. The ‘after’ photos show the effectiveness of the treatment a year on. A photo of a stump that missed treatment shows just how lushly privet will re-sprout after being chopped down. 

Samples of the New Zealand-made product, CutnPaste, were provided to the Trust to test on woody weed species. The landowner in this trial case says he is pretty happy with the results. ‘The paste was easy to use and effective. I have got more in to carry on with the good work,’ he said.

Before controlAfter

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