FWNRM Blog

Chinese Privet has become so numerous and naturalized throughout Alabama that many folks no longer see it as the non-native, invasive plant that it is. Chinese Privet was first imported in 1852 for ornamental use as a shrub and hedge and has since become one of the most aggressive and widespread problematic invasive plants in the southern U.S. The reasons behind the plants invasive nature lie in the fact that it is a fast growing, prolific re-sprouter and berry producer whose seeds are spread by birds and are capable of floating to re-infest new downstream areas. On top of that, it is tolerant of a wide variety of soil and sunlight conditions. These characteristics seem daunting for the manager looking to control privet, and although there is no longer for eradication, there are still options available to manage this ornamental gone wild.

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Chinese privet impacts homeowners, farmers, foresters, and southeastern land managers in general. For the farmer, it shades out otherwise productive field edge that could be producing quality pasture forage or row crops. For the forester, it competes with and snuffs out up and coming desirable trees and important plants for wildlife. For the homeowner, it is constantly attempting to invade the edge of yards and wood lots, and so on and so forth. Although the reasons for controlling privet are many, there are four primary ways in which we can control unwanted plants in general. The first is through physical control, otherwise known as dreadful hand pulling. Although hand pulling has its place in privet control, as it is a very weakly rooted plant, even when up to 18” tall, it is only effective in relatively small areas of low density infestations.  Biological control, by use of controlled grazing/browsing is another option. The browsing and foraging behavior of cattle, sheep, and goats can be used for control of privet stands, but it is important to understand that these animals cannot tell the difference between desirable and undesirable plants and therefore have to be carefully monitored and removed once their job is done. The next form of control available is mechanical, which most often comes in the form of using machinery such as bush hogs, mulchers, mowers, chainsaws, etc. This, by itself, is not at all an effective long term control of privet (remember, privet is a VIGOROUS re-sprouter). If you cut one privet stem, it will re-sprout and you can come back to that same plant a month later to find 10 stems have replaced it! However, combine mechanical control with our next control option and we can have much greater effectiveness. Chemical control is perhaps the best option for long-term control of privet in most applications. In conjunction with mechanical efforts, once stems are cut, immediately spray the top of the cut stump with a 25% solution 41% glyphosate or 44% Triclopyr amine and the privet will be dead for good. If the stumps cannot be immediately sprayed, you do have the option to come back later with a basal bark treatment of a 20% solution of triclopyr ester with an oil carrier sprayed on the lower 12-15” of the stump. Foliar spraying younger more accessible privet stands with a 3-5% solution of 41% glyphosate can also be effective for gaining control. Of course, the privet must be short enough or your spray equipment must be powerful enough for complete coverage from the crown, generally less than 6-8’ tall.  Keep in mind this technique will leave you with dead standing privet. Chemical control techniques are best conducted in the late summer to early winter months when sap flow is inward, this allows for the chemical to be transported into the roots for a long-term kill.  

Once privet stands are under control it is important to monitor them throughout the year as there will be constant re-infestations. However, instead of a broad scale cutting and/or herbicide application a casual stroll with a back pack sprayer, to spraying a sprig here and a sprig there will seem much more manageable. 

Further information on privet identification and control is available in three of our publications:

Control Options for Chinese Privet ANR-1468

Cut Stump Herbicide Treatments for Invasive Plant Control—Recommendations for Homeowners  ANR-1465

Basal Bark Herbicide Treatment for Invasive Plants in Pastures, Natural Areas, and Forests  ANR-1466

Information like this and so much more is available at your counties Alabama Cooperative Extension System office.  Please give us a call or make a visit!

Norm Haley
Regional Extension Agent I – Forestry, Wildlife, & Natural Resources
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
500 Grand Ave. SW, Suite 300
Fort Payne, AL 35967
 
Office: 256-845-8595
Cell:    256-630-4248
Fax:    256-845-8596



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