Q: How can you tell the difference between the native Florida privet and the invasive Chinese privet?
A: Both have shiny leaves which are attached to the stem directly across from each other (opposite). The most distinct difference will be the flowers. The native Florida privet, Forestiera segregate, has small flowers with almost no petals and each flower contains greenish yellow or reddish purple stamens (male flower parts). The Chinese privet, Ligustrum sinense, has long clusters of white flower petals. It can easily reproduce from suckers and if disturbed can reproduce quickly in addition to its large seed production.
Chinese privet is native to China and was introduced into the United States in 1852 for use as an ornamental shrub. Generally, it was planted as a hedge and mass plantings and sometimes as a single specimen for its foliage and profuse small white flowers. The variegated form, which can ultimately revert back to its solid green relative, continues to be widely sold in nursery and gardening centers although it was recently be placed on the Florida Noxious weed list. This plant successfully overtakes native species then alters the flora and fauna balance. It becomes especially abundant along fencerows, streams and it has the ability to invade forests. Truly, this is a plant no one should have in their landscape.