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Texas Invasive Species Institute

Texas Invasive Species Institute

Waxleaf Privet

Ligustrum japonicum

Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Scrophulariales
Family: Oleaceae
Duration and Habit: Evergreen

Ligustrum japonicum

Photographer: Karan A. Rawlins Affiliation: University of Georgia Source: Bugwood.org Copyright: CC BY NC 3.0 US


Ligustrum japonicum has been commonly referred to as the Japanese Privet or Waxleaf Privet. It exists as an evergreen shrub or tree. Escaping from cultivation and established in fencerows, abandoned pastures, and low woodlands. Twigs are greenish brown to gray, without hairs but with raised, corky dots (lenticels). Leaves opposite, with petioles; blade firm textured, ovate to elliptic, up to 4 1/2 inches long and 2 inches wide pointed at the tip, and with smooth margins, upper surface dark green, smooth, glossy; lower surface lighter with a prominent, yellow, main vein. Flowers white, about 1/4 inch wide, petals bent back, in broad, dense clusters up to 8 inches long. Fruit berrylike, dark blue, 5/16 inch long and 1/4 inch wide, hanging on into winter.

Ecological Threat

Ligustrum japonicum commonly forms dense thickets in fields or forest understories. It shades and out-competes many native species, and once established is very difficult to remove.


Waxleaf privet spreads by animal dispersed seeds, particularly birds, and this dispersal method has allowed Waxleaf privet to escape cultivation. Flowers bloom over spring (April-May). The black fruits contain 1-4 seeds, ripen September to October, but can persist through the winter. One mature plants produce thousands of fruit!


Possibly as far back as 1794, it was imported from Korea (and later Japan), as an ornamental for yards and gardens in the Southern United States. Consequently, like most invasive plants will, it escaped cultivation and naturalized itself throughout the region.

Native Origin

 Japan and Korea

Current Location

U.S. Habitat: Temperate regions in the Southern states, and California. It can co-occur with Chinese privet (Lingustrum sinense), but generally not as abundant, depending upon location. Overall, it is considerably less invasive than the Chinese privet, and it usually more prevalent in lowlands. It is shade tolerant, and can tolerate a wide range of soil types.

U.S. Present: AL, CA, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, OK, PR, SC, TN, TX, VA

To see a county distribution map provided by EDDMapS click here


Resembles the Chinese privet other Lingustrum sinense but that species has smaller and thinner leaves. Also resembles plants of the Photinia genus and Carolina laurel cherry (Prunus caroliniana), which have similar evergreen, but alternate, leaves with finely toothed margins.


Native Alternatives: Morella cerifera (wax myrtle), Ilex vomitoria (yaupon), Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry), Rhus virens (evergreen sumac), Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush), Malpighia glabra (wild crapemyrtle).


While this species is not nearly as invasive or detrimental as the Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense), in order to prevent this invasive plant from settling on your property, do not plant it! Also, remove any plantings that are there quickly. It can be managed by cutting, mulching, and bulldozing when fruit are not present. If you must harvest the privet while it's fruit-bearing, be sure to bag any seeds present before disposal. Bag and dispose of fruit in a dumpster or burn. Also, you can manually pull and tree wrench when the soil is moist, but you must make sure all roots are removed. These plants can be readily eaten by sheep and goats, if you’re in a rural setting.

TREE-GIRDLING has shown to be effective for large species of Ligustrum and a video on how you can girdle your own Ligustrum are here. This is also effective on fruit-bearing trees.

Chemical treatment such as Glyphosate and Triclopyr also work, especially when new plants are young enough that they haven’t undergone seed formation. Additionally, tree injections can help reach and destroy the lower part of the main stem on larger privets.

USE PESTICIDES WISELY: Always read the entire pesticide label carefully, follow all mixing and application instructions and wear all recommended personal protective gear and clothing.



Contributions from Texas Invasives for this species page are greatly appreciated.

Miller, J.H. 2003. Nonnative invasive plants of southern forests: a field guide for identification and control. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-62. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 93 pp (USDA SRS)

Miller, J.H., E.B, Chambliss, N.J. Loewenstein. 2010. A Field Guide for the Identification of Invasive Plants in Southern Forests. General Technical Report SRS-119. Asheville, NC. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 126 p.

Alfred Rehder. 1967. Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs: Hardy in North America, the MacMillan Co., New York.

Bailey, L.H. and E.Z. Bailey, Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada, MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., New York , (1977).)

Internet Sources

NatureServe Explorer

Tree Girdling by Cliff Tyllick:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-L1RJn095w







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