California Privet





California Privet

(Ligustrum ovalifolium Hassk.)

Interesting Information about Plant: For reasons that are no perfectly clear, Ligustrum ovalifolium is commonly called California privet even though it is native to Japan. Privet was originally the name for the European semi-evergreen shrub Ligustrum vulgare, and then later for the more reliably evergreen California Privet. It is used extensively for privacy hedging, hence the name "privet" (private). Various precise of privet have been introduced to the United States since as early as the 1700's, but it wasn't until 1945 that California Privet was brought to the United States. It occurs in scattered locations across the U.S., but is mainly found in the Southeast and Midwest. Privets can invade floodplains, forests, wetlands, and fields. They form dense thickets, out-competing native vegetation. The flowers are small and fragrant and borne in panicles. They have four curled-back petals and two high stamens with yellow or red anthers, between which is the low pistil. After fertilization, the petals and stamens fall off and leave the pistil in the calyx tube. The flowering starts after 330 growing degree days. The fruits are borne in clusters and are usually dark purple drupes which are poisonous for man but can be eaten by many birds.

Common Name: California Privet

Scientific Name: Ligustrum ovalifolium Hassk.

Family Name (Scientific and Common): Oleaceae, Olive Family

Continent of Origin: Asia, particularly Japan

Most Distinguishing Morphological Features of The Plant: California privet is a semi-evergreen Japanese shrub having malodorous flowers. It is used extensively for hedges because it is more likely to stay green than common privet. The flowers of the plant, as well as the leaves, can have a very strong and unpleasant odor.

Plant Growth Habit: Shrub

Height at maturity: More than 10 feet

Life Span: Perennial

Seasonal Habit: Deciduous Perennial

Growth Habitat: Full Sun or Partial Shade (Can flourish in both)

Manner of culture: Landscape Shrub

Thorns on Younger Stem? No

Cross Section of Younger Stem: Roundish

Stem (or Trunk) Diameter: Between the Diameter of a Broom-Handle and a Coffee-Mug

Produces Brownish Bark? Yes

Bark Peeling in Many Areas? No

Characteristics of Mature (Brownish) Bark: Lines Go Up-Down

Type of Leaf: Thick, Fleshy Leaf

Length of Leaf (or Leaflet): Less than Length of a Credit Card

Leaf Complexity: Simple

Shape of Leaf: Simple

Edge of Leaf: Smooth

Leaf Arrangement: Opposite

Leaf has Petiole? Yes

Patterns of Main-Veins: Pinnate

Leaf Hairiness: No Hairs

Color of Foliage in summer: Green on the top of the leaves, and greenish-yellow on the underside of the leaves

Change in color of foliage in October: Changes to yellow

Flowing season: Summer

Flowers: Tightly Clustered

Type of flower: colorful flower

Color of flower: creamy white, unpleasantly scented

Shape of individual flower: radial symmetrical

Size of individual flower: smaller than a quarter

Sexuality: hermaphroditic flowers which are pollinated by insects

Size of fruit: smaller than a quarter

Fruit fleshiness at maturity: fleshy

Shape of fruit: spherical

Color of fruit at maturity: dark purplish (almost black)

Fruit desirable to birds or squirrels? Yes, birds

Unique Morphological features of plant: entire plant can be pruned nearly to a stub during extreme winters in order to protect the plant, but will still have healthy growth the following spring.

Is the Plant Poisonous: Yes, the fruits are poisonous to man, but perfectly fine for birds

Pesty Plant (weedy, hard to control)? No, generally used in an ornamental setting and is sheared as a hedge; can be pruned as informal screen. It is extremely competitive however.

Common Name(s): Japanese Privet

Louisville Plants That Are Most Easily Confused With This One: Bush Honeysuckle and other species of privet


Page prepared by:


Lucas Biller


December, 2006

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© Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY 2002-2004