Privet

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Privet (Ligustrum obtusifolium or Ligustrum amurense), sometimes called Obtuse-leaved privet, border privet or Japanese privet, is an invasive species of evergreen shrub related to the olive which became widely popular as a privacy hedge because of its hardiness and dense growth.

The plant produces small, fragrant flowers borne in panicles. The petals curl back from two high stamens with yellow or red anthers and a low pistil. The clustered dark purple berries, produced in late summer, are poisonous to humans and horses, but eaten readily by birds who then spread the seeds. Some butterfly larvae feed primarily on privet.

The Berckmans Nursery in Augusta, Georgia is credited with introducing the plant to Southern gardens from a small stock of ten plants imported from France. These ten, the "mother hedge", are believed to be the progenitors of a hardy invasive which has spread unhindered across the South. It has choked more than 900,000 acres across the state of Alabama (about fifteen times the area covered by kudzu, another notable invasive). Jefferson County, with 80,000 acres of privet-choked forest land, is at the epicenter of the plant's invasion. Much of the 4,500 acres managed by the Freshwater Land Trust is afflicted.

Native plant species are overwhelmed by privet's spread and have only been restored in a few areas where vigilant eradication efforts have been successful, such as in Mountain Brook's Jemison Park. Other areas where eradication efforts are under way include Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Red Mountain Park and part of Shades Creek in Bessemer.

References

  • Spencer, Thomas (February 8, 2009) "Birmingham area fights back against an invasion of pervasive, nonnative plant species." Birmingham News
  • "Privet." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 22 Dec 2008, 06:04 UTC. 8 Feb 2009 [1].