Also known as
hedge privet, small-leaved privet
What does it look like?
Shrub or small tree growing to 5m high, with distinctive warty lumps on stems and densely hairy shoots. Evergreen in Northland, with oval, dull green leaves (25-60 x 12-25 mm), and a hairy midrib on the underside. Leaves occasionally have wavy edges. Loose drooping clusters (up to 10cm long) of small, tubular and very fragrant white flowers with tiny mauve anthers appear October-December, followed by round, green berries that mature to dull purplish-black.
Why is it a problem?
Chinese privet produces many high-viability seeds in widely dispersed berries, and forms dense stands, displacing native shrubs and other understorey species. It tolerates dense shade (although only flowers in moderate light), frost, damage, grazing, most soil types, high to moderately low temperatures, damp and drought conditions, salt and wind. It is short-lived but continuously replaced.
Poisonous berries may possibly impact on native fauna, especially insects.
Leaves & fruit poisonous, perfume and pollen contributes to asthma and allergies.
It grows and matures rapidly, producing many well-dispersed seeds most of year. Berries are toxic and the hairs/dust from the plant irritates skin, eyes, nose, throat. It tolerates wet to dry conditions, salt, all well-drained soils, hot to cool temperatures, semi-shade, damage and grazing.
It will invade heavily disturbed forest and light gaps, shrublands, coastal and estuarine margins, and wetlands.
How does it spread?
Seed is spread by many bird species, as well as vegetation dumping and soil movement. Common seed sources are domestic and farm hedges, roadsides, wastelands, quarries, gullies, and exotic plantations.
How much of it do we have on the Whangarei Heads Peninsula?
Relatively little. It is far less common then the larger tree privet, with known hotspots on the Pataua South Rd and Beasley Rd, at the northern end of McLeod Bay, and in Little Munro Bay.
What can we DO about it at Whangarei Heads?
Because we have relatively little, if we act early we can prevent it spreading further and becoming a larger problem. It is easiest to spot when flowering as the prolific white flowers are very noticeable.
Check out the control methods below:
How do I control it?
- Pull or dig seedlings. Leave to rot on site or mulch (you can use a lawn mower).
- Cut stump application: Cut at ground level and immediately treat stump with (5g metsulfuron/1L water). Metsulfuron works best, however undiluted glyphosate can also be used, but extra care is required when working with undiluted herbicides. Cut stems can be left on site to rot down, or mulched.
- Frill and fill: make a deep cut into the sapwood at regular intervals around the base of the tree, taking care not to ring-bark the plant. Immediately saturate the cuts with (20g metsulfuron/1L water). Wait until the liquid subsides/absorbs and then apply again.
- Drill & fill: Drill (c.12mm drill bit) sloping holes into the sapwood at 10cm intervals around the base of the trunk, & immediately fill each hole with (20g metsulfuron/1L water). Top up all holes after initial fill has absorbed. Metsulfuron works best however undiluted glyphosate can also be used but extra care must be taken when using undiluted herbicide.
- Spray, best in spring and autumn, (5g metsulfuron+10ml penetrant/10L water).
Follow up 6-monthly. Easiest to spot during spring flowering. Bared areas reseed profusely. Replant bared areas (after seedlings appear naturally) to minimise seedling growth.
CAUTION: when using any herbicide or pesticide PLEASE READ THE LABEL THOROUGHLY to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.