590 Ligustrum lucidumCommon Names: glossy privet, wax-leaf ligustrum, tree privet, wax-leaf privet Family: Oleaceae (olive Family)
Glossy privet is an evergreen shrub or small tree to 30 ft (9.1 m) tall with glossy 4-6 in (10.2-15.2 cm) acuminate (pointed) leaves arranged opposite each other on the stem. The leaves typically fold upward, like a V, from the midvein. The small, white, malodorous flowers appear in late summer and are arranged in upright panicles to 10 in (25.4 cm) long. The fruit is an oblong blue black drupe about 0.25 in (0.6 cm) long that persists on the plant much of the year. Several named cultivars have been selected, including 'Excelsum Supurbum' with yellow margined leaves, 'Tricolor' with yellow and pink (when young) variegation, and 'Pyramidale' with a narrow, conical shape.
There are about 50 species of Ligustrum, all native to the Old World, mainly in eastern Asia and Malaysia. Ligustrum lucidum, the glossy privet, is native to China, Korea and Japan. It has escaped cultivation and become established in California and the southeastern US as far south as central Florida, especially in disturbed areas.
CultureHardy and easy to grow to the point of becoming an invasive weed in some areas. Light: Full sun to partial shade. Moisture: Moderately drought tolerant. Needs supplemental watering only during prolonged dry periods. Glossy privet thrives in any soil as long as it's not constantly wet. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. Propagation: Softwood cuttings root easily. Grows readily from seeds.
Because it is tolerant of air pollution, wind and poor soils, glossy privet was much used as a street tree before its invasive character was realized. It is still a popular landscape plant, used as a specimen or in borders to create a barrier along driveways or between residential lots. The plant is an invasive weed, however, and there are many beautiful and useful non-invasive alternatives.
The berries of ligustrum have been used in China as a "yin" tonic for centuries. It is often combined with astragalus. More recent research has suggested that extracts from ligustrum fruits stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, and may have beneficial effects on the liver.
Glossy privet is listed as one of the exotic pest plants of greatest ecological concern in California by the California Exotic Pest Plant Council, and as a Category II species with the potential to disrupt native plant communities in Florida by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. The related Chinese privet (L. sinense) is even worse: a Category I species, already disrupting native plant communities in Florida. Privet should not be used in the landscape. There are better alternatives.
Steve Christman 11/19/99; updated 6/14/04