Privet - broad-leaf (Ligustrum lucidum)

Broad-leaf privet is an evergreen shrub. Used in gardens, it now has extensive environmental, agricultural and human health impacts.


How does this weed affect you?

Privets are considered to be serious environmental weeds throughout Australia. Infestations threaten biodiversity, including endangered plant and animal species and ecological communities. Dense stands of privet prevent other vegetation surviving or establishing. Broad-leaf privet invades ecosystems including subtropical and coastal rainforests, rainforest margins, warm-temperate and dry rainforest, wet and dry eucalypt forests, grassy woodlands, grasslands and riparian vegetation. 

It is reported that privet pollen causes allergic reactions and hay fever. It is unlikely that the pollen of privet is strongly allergenic; however, cross-reactivity can occur where people who are sensitive to grass pollen can become sensitive to privet, producing allergic reactions. It is thought that the perfume of privet flowers causes these reactions, not the pollen. Reactions occur commonly during spring and early summer when privets produce masses of flowers and pollen. These include allergy-like symptoms such as asthma and irritation of mucous membranes. In one extreme case, hospitalisation resulting in near death occurred after the patient was exposed to privet.

Privet berries and leaves have been reported by overseas sources to be mildly toxic to humans and livestock if ingested in large amounts; however, no known cases of poisoning have occurred in Australia. 

Privets invade native and plantation forest industries, orchards and pastures in Australia. Costs of control are high and yields are reduced by the presence of privet in these production systems.

Where is it found?

Broad-leaf privet originates from eastern Asia. It occurs as a widespread weed in coastal and tableland areas of New South Wales.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Privet - broad-leaf during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2024)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

How does it spread?

Privet seeds are commonly spread by fruit-eating birds. Birds such as pied currawongs, silver-eyes and rosellas can spread the seed widely into previously uninfested areas. Privet seedlings often germinate in clusters, as a result of birds regurgitating the seeds. Birds and rabbits assist germination by removal of the soft coating around the seed.

Privets are also spread through the sale of garden plants from nurseries and markets, the dumping of garden waste containing seeds and the sale of foliage in floral arrangements containing fruit and seeds. Seeds can also be spread in flowing water.

What does it look like?

Broad-leaf privet grows as an evergreen shrub or small tree to a height of 4–10 m. The brown bark is covered in small white lenticels (pores that allow gas exchange).

Pointed oval-shaped leaves occur in opposite pairs, and are 4–13 cm long and 3–6 cm wide. The upper leaf surface is dark green and glossy or shiny while the under-surface is paler with distinct veins. Leaves are hairless.

Cream or white tubular flowers with four petal-like lobes occur in branched clusters – each flower is 3.5–6.0 mm long. Flowers have a sickly sweet fragrance.

Berries are 9 mm long and 12 mm in diameter, and are green when young, turning red through to blue to glossy or purplish black as they ripen. Berries usually contain two oval-shaped ribbed seeds 5 mm long. Roots are woody, branching, thickened at the crown and mostly shallow.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Broad-leaf privets prefer warm, humid environments with moderate to high soil moisture throughout the year. Creeks, gullies and drainage lines are favoured by both species, but seedlings are able to establish in drier areas if run-off water is temporarily available. Both species occur in areas with rainfall between 700–1600 mm. Its seedlings can tolerate very low light levels, allowing them to persist beneath dense canopies of vegetation. 

Privets have been found growing in a range of soil types, from pure sands through to friable loams, and almost pure clays. However, it is generally agreed that privets thrive on more fertile shale or clay-derived soils found in riparian areas.


Authors: Elissa van Oosterhout, J. Mowatt, Leon Smith, Stephen Johnson.

Technical reviewers: Stephen Johnson, Birgitte Verbeek.


Hardin, D. (1992), Ligustrum vulgare L. New South Wales Flora Online, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney.

Johnson, S. (2009), Review of the declaration of Ligustrum (privet) species in NSW, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange.

Johnson, S. B. (2009), ‘Privet species – are we sitting on species time bombs?’, in Proceedings of the 15th Biennial NSW Weeds Conference, Narrabri, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange.

More information

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The following are guiding principles for privet control and management.

  • Locate, map and monitor the extent of an infestation and any changes in weediness, as well as any cultivated plants in the locality of the infestation.
  • Identify key sites, assets or industries at risk from the infestation (natural ecosystems, human health, primary production, etc.).
  • Control infestations in close proximity to the identified key sites/assets/industries, aiming to reduce weed density.
  • Prevent spread from cultivated plants in the locality.
  • Continue to control growth and spread of the infestation.

Controlling spread

Wide dispersal of seed by birds cannot be controlled; therefore controlling the spread of privet requires the removal of seed trees and young seedlings before they produce seed.

Follow up control and revegetation

Many attempts to control or remove privet have failed because of its ability to regenerate vigorously from root and stem suckers. Follow-up control measures are critical for successful removal. The removal of large numbers of privet bushes from other vegetation can cause enough disturbance that reinfestation occurs. Revegetation with appropriate species, along with ongoing weed control, can assist with preventing reinfestation. Where privet is providing a replacement habitat and food source for fruit-eating birds, control efforts should ensure that removal is undertaken gradually in combination with revegetation with suitable species.

Manual removal

Manual removal techniques such as the original ‘Bradley method’ allow for good control of privet with minimal disturbance to the surrounding vegetation. These techniques involve hand-weeding of small and medium-sized privet plants, where the gaps left by weeding should be similar to those that occur naturally after the death of a native plant. Soil disturbance should also be minimised.

Broad-leaf privet is easy to pull up when it has a stem diameter of less than 2–3 cm, particularly after rain. Similar sized small-leaf privet is more difficult to remove as the stems are more likely to break from the root system when pulled, leaving viable root segments capable of regeneration. Small-leaf privets should be dug out and the plants placed upside-down to dry out the roots.

Control with herbicides

Foliar treatments can be made to flushes of seedlings and groups of plants up to 3 m high. Plants should be actively growing, not under heat or moisture stress, and complete coverage of the foliage is necessary to ensure successful control. Foliar treatments are appropriate where infestations contain dense stands of privet and little or no other valuable vegetation.

Basal bark applications are appropriate for treating larger individual plants in amongst other vegetation. Every trunk or stem arising from the ground should be treated.

Stem injection is also appropriate for treating larger individual plants in amongst other vegetation. Stem injection has been found to be the most cost-effective method of control in terms of volume of herbicide and labour costs. It is also most effective in terms of reducing off-target herbicide damage to other vegetation.

Capsule stem injection is also availble for privet trees.

Where is it possible or desirable to completely remove whole plants, herbicide treatment of the cut stumps should be carried out in order to prevent regrowth from stumps. Cut-stump application of herbicides is very effective for controlling young plants, suckers or regrowth.

Mechanical removal

Earth-moving machinery may be suitable for removal of dense stands of privet if high levels of soil disturbance can be tolerated. Large areas of seedlings or regrowth can be slashed. These methods will reduce the seeding capacity of a large infestation, but will not eradicate it. Follow-up with herbicide control or manual removal may provide higher levels of control. These areas should also be revegetated with trees, shrubs, ground covers or pastures and repeatedly hand-weeded or slashed thereafter. Mechanical removal is not recommended in steep areas or near water courses.


Burning is generally ineffective against privet. Privet thickets are of low flammability and bushfires do not readily move through privet-dominated vegetation. Even when fire is very intense, privets are able to regenerate rapidly by sprouting or suckering. There is evidence to suggest that both broad and small-leaf privets can recover after high intensity fires have killed the above-ground plant material (flowering has reoccurred within 3 years). Fire has been used as an initial control measure, followed up by treatment of regrowth with cut stump herbicide applications the following year. Persistent annual cool burns have been shown to eliminate small-leaf and European privet in southern USA, and it is thought that frequent fires probably assist with controlling seedling establishment of privet in infested eucalypt forests and woodlands in Australia.

Biological control

There are no introduced biological control agents available for privet control in Australia.

Reducing nutrient levels

Increased nutrient levels often contribute to the presence of privet infestations. Reducing or stopping the movement of nutrients in water from residential or industrial areas into riparian areas may help prevent establishment of large privet infestations.

Herbicide options

Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website

See Using herbicides for more information.

Glyphosate 360 g/L (Various products)
Rate: Undiluted (1–2 mL per cut)
Comments: Stem injection. Apply 1 mL/cut for trees with trunk diameter 25 cm or less at the base. Apply 2 mL/cut for trees with trunk diameter over 25 cm and up to 60 cm at the base,
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 9 (previously group M), Inhibition of 5-enolpyruvyl shikimate-3 phosphate synthase (EPSP inhibition)
Resistance risk: Moderate

Glyphosate 700 g/kg (Di-Bak G)
Rate: 1 capsule for every 10 cm of circumference (minimum of 2 capsules per tree)
Comments: Capsule herbicide: See critical comments on the label for details on how to apply and seal the capsule in the tree trunk.
Withholding period: Do not allow stock to graze surrounding the treated areas until complete browning of treated tree has occurred.
Herbicide group: 9 (previously group M), Inhibition of 5-enolpyruvyl shikimate-3 phosphate synthase (EPSP inhibition)
Resistance risk: Moderate

Metsulfuron-methyl 300 g/kg + Aminopyralid 375 g/kg (Various products)
Rate: 20 g per 100 L of water (always add a Wetter 100 mL/100L)
Comments: Hand gun application. Apply to bushes up to 3 m high. Complete foliar spray coverage is essential for control. Adjuvant: Wetter 1000g/L non-ionic alcohol alkoxylate (TITAN WETTER 1000 or BS1000 or equivalent).
Withholding period: Pastures - Grazing for meat production or cutting for animal feed: Do not graze for 56 days after application. See label for further details
Herbicide group: 2 (previously group B), Inhibition of acetolactate and/or acetohydroxyacid synthase (ALS, AHAS inhibitors) + 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: High/Moderate

Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Various products)
Rate: 10 g per 100 L of water
Comments: Apply to bushes up to 3 m high; complete coverage is essential.
Withholding period: Nil (recommended not to graze for 7 days before treatment and for 7 days after treatment to allow adequate chemical uptake in target weeds).
Herbicide group: 2 (previously group B), Inhibition of acetolactate and/or acetohydroxyacid synthase (ALS, AHAS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High

Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Various products)
Rate: 1 g per litre of water + organosilicone penetrant (10 mL/5L)
Comments: Gas gun / Splatter gun application. Apply only to bushes up to 3 m high when in full leaf and actively growing. Thorough coverage is essential.
Withholding period: Nil (recommended not to graze for 7 days before treatment and for 7 days after treatment to allow adequate chemical uptake in target weeds).
Herbicide group: 2 (previously group B), Inhibition of acetolactate and/or acetohydroxyacid synthase (ALS, AHAS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High

Picloram 44.7 g/L + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Cut stump application: Apply a 3–5 mm layer of gel for stems less than 20 mm. Apply 5 mm layer on stems above 20 mm. Stem inject application for trees: Make a series of cuts 15-20 mm deep around the trunk using an axe or saw. Space cuts evenly with no more than a 20-40 mm gap between them. Apply a 5 mm layer of gel over the lower surface of the cut.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate

Triclopyr 240 g/L + Picloram 120 g/L (Access™ )
Rate: 1.0 L per 30 L of diesel
Comments: Basal bark/cut stump application.
Withholding period: Nil
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate

Triclopyr 600 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 1.0 L per 12 L of diesel
Comments: Basal bark application for plants with stems up to 10 cm diameter at the base. Cut stump application for plants with stems up to and greater than 10 cm diameter at the base. Treatment may be carried out at any time of the year.
Withholding period: Not required when used as directed.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate

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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All pest plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Central Tablelands
Contain recorded populations across the Central Tablelands region. Excludes urban areas across the region except for Orange City Council. Orange City Council has a local privet management plan to control privet in the urban areas.
Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Containment)
Whole of region: Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Land managers should mitigate spread of the plant from their land. A person should not buy, sell, move, carry or release the plant into the environment. Land managers should reduce the impact of the plant on assets of high economic, environmental and/or social value.
Duty does not apply for urban areas in the Central Tablelands region other than Orange City Council.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfil the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.

Reviewed 2024