Habit of small-leaved privet

Leaf arrangement

Immature fruit


Leaves of large and small-leaved privet

First leaves after germination

Cotyledons (seed leaves) with first leaves

Scientific Name

Ligustrum sinense Lour.

Common Names

small-leaved privet, Chinese privet, hedge privet


Native to Asia




A branching, densely leafed evergreen shrub up to 3m tall.



Will invade the under story in moister regions. It is a big problem in coastal and tablelands areas of Australia.

General Description

Stems and Leaves:

Oval leaves which end in a pointed tip that are 2-5cm long and 1.5-2.5cm wide. The petiole (stalk of a leaf) is 3-7mm long. Leaves are opposite with a wavy leaf margin and the midrib on the lower surface of the leaf is pubescent (dense covering of short, weak, soft hairs). Leaves are soft with a thin texture. New growth and young branches are covered with short, soft hairs. Stems are woody and are light brown.

Flowers and Fruit:

Small tubular, white flowers, which occur in dense clusters (panicles), are 5-10cm long and have a strong scent. The pedicel (stalk of the flower) is 1-3mm long with the flowers having 4 petals and stamens that protrude. The calyx tube (a tube formed by the fusion of the sepals) is 1mm long and scarcely lobed and the corolla (the petals of a flower collectively) is tube shaped and is 0.5-1mm long with lobes that are 2mm long. Flowers in late winter to spring. The fruit is a blue-black oval berry at maturity in winter, green prior to maturity. 


Distinguishing characteristics

Ligustrum sinense may be mistaken for Morinda (Morinda jasminoides), however unlike Ligustrum, Morinda is a creeper and has small pits on the leaf at the intersection of the veins and midvein. Grey myrtle (Backhousia myrtifolia) is also similar to Ligustrum, however Ligustrum tends not to have a pleasantly scented leaf and its leaf veins do not fully extend to the leaf margin as in Backhousia sp.

Ligustrum sinense can also be distinguished from Ligustrum lucidum (large-leaved privet) in that L. lucidum has leaves that are usually 6-12cm long and 3-5cm wide; a petiole that is 10-20mm long and panicles (a much branched infloresence with a main axis and lateral branches which are further branched, and in which each axis ends in a flower or bud) that are >15cm long.

Sources & References

Harden GJ (Ed) (2002) 'Flora of New South Wales.' (University of New South Wales Press Ltd: Sydney, Australia)

Perry F (1972) 'Flowers of the World.' (Hamlyn Publishing Group: Sydney)

Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines of Central North Carolina (2004) 'Chinese Privet (Ligustrum Sinense)' www.duke.edu

Weeds of Blue Mountains Bushland (2004) 'Privet small-leaf' www.weedsbluemountains.org.au


Prepared by Kylie Pethybridge, 2005

Checked by Carole Campbell, 2005

Updated by Justin KY Chu, July 2005

Checked by Dr Peter Michael, July 2005

Updated by IEWF, January 2007