Watch for white flowers to spot Chinese privet!
Now is the time to spot this months ‘Weed of the Month” – the lesser known Chinese privet, or ‘small-leaved privet’ (Ligustrum sinense). It is related to the larger tree privet, but behaves a bit differently and flowers NOW, rather than in summer. Not hugely distinctive most of the year, when it starts flowering it really stands out. It is high on our hit list of weeds to target because it is spreading out from a number of problem areas, but is not yet widespread across the Heads. We have the opportunity to stop it becoming another major weed of the Heads.
How do I recognise it?
Chinese privet is a shrub or small tree growing to 5m high. When it is flowering (which is now!) it is at its most obvious, because it produces distinctive drooping, loose clusters of very small, very fragrant, white flowers. The drooping sprays of flowers can be up to 10cm long. The small white flowers are tubular with tiny mauve anthers, and usually appear in November- December, followed by round, green berries that mature to dull purplish-black.
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. Stems have distinctive warty lumps and densely hairy shoots.
Why is it a problem for the Heads?
Chinese privet is tolerant of deep shade, meaning it can invade even healthy forest, and when it does it can form dense infestations that displace native shrubs and other understorey species. It is capable of spreading rapidly because it produces large numbers of highly viable seeds in small berries, which can be widely dispersed by birds. It is short-lived but continuously replaced (it does require moderate light levels to flower).
The leaves & fruit are poisonous, and the perfume and pollen contributes to asthma and allergies.
How much of it do we have on the Whangarei Heads Peninsula?
Currently Chinese privet is not widespread, but there are a number of places where there are growing infestations. These usually centre around areas where it was originally planted. Known hot spots include Taraunui Rd, Campbell Rd, Pataua South Rd / Beasley Rd area, the mid to far end of Ody road, beginning of Kerr Rd, the northern end of McLeod Bay, and in Little Munro Bay.
What can we DO about it at Whangarei Heads?
Because Chinese privet is still restricted to certain areas, 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.
Privets are easy to kill with metsulfuron (there are lots of techniques –see below). If we can tackle the ones on our own property and spread the message among friends and neighbours to make them aware of this nasty weed, we can make a real difference.
Get in touch to get some advice and/or free herbicide and deal to yours today!
Check out the control methods below.
How do I control it?
Free herbicide (that is particularly effective on Chinese privet) is available from the Weed Action Community Store. Just get in contact with our coordinator.
- 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, with (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.