What is it?
Originally widely used as a hedging plant, Chinese privet was planted extensively throughout towns and rural areas as hedging. It has small, glossy, bright green leaves with smooth edges, and it produces tiny, smelly, creamy flowers from October to January, followed by bluish or purplish-black berry-like fruit with a powdery coating.
Why is it weedy?
Chinese privet is rapid growing, exceptionally tough, and birds eating the berries spread the seeds far and wide. Chinese privet is also extremely invasive, forming dense carpets of seedlings on the forest floor and crowding out other species. Its stinky flowers aggravate hayfever, allergies and asthma, making the summer months miserable for those affected by it.
What to do:
Small plants can be dug out and disposed of by burning, deep burial, or at the your local refuse transfer station. Larger trees need to be treated with a suitable herbicide, either by spraying, painting cut stumps, or injecting into the trunks of trees that are still standing. An option for hedges is to trim them several times during the summer months to prevent flowering and subsequent seeding. Check out the weeds search at www.weedbusters.org.nz for more information on suitable control methods.
Camellias are always a good alternative to privet, or you could try titoki (Alectryon excelsus), ribbonwood (Plagianthus species) or totara (Podocarpus totara). If you are wanting to replace privet hedges, try pittosporums, photinia or korokia. All of these species are evergreen.
Weedbusters is an interagency weeds awareness programme supported by all regional councils and unitary authorities, the Department of Conservation, Biosecurity New Zealand, Federated Farmers, Biodiversity New Zealand, NZ Landcare Trust, Nursery and Garden Industry Association, NZ Biosecurity Institute, and NZ Plant Protection Society.