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Post new topic   Reply to topic    Irish Gardeners Forum Home -> Shrubs in Ireland ... Hedging in Ireland

Irish native privet ... Ligustrum vulgare ... An Pribhéad

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James Kilkelly
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2007 11:28 pm    Post subject: Irish native privet ... Ligustrum vulgare ... An Pribhéad Reply with quote

Irish native privet ... Ligustrum vulgare ... An Pribhéad

Strong of scent, leaf and stem, Irelands native privet is an easily grown plant, which can tolerant most locations and harsh treatments. You may know this tough member of the olive family by one of its other common names such as European privet, Privy, Prim, or as its Latin form, Ligustrum vulgare.

. European privet, flower, stem and leaf, photo / pic / image.

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Lamiales
Family: Oleaceae
Genus: Ligustrum
Species: L. vulgare

Chromosome number: 2n=46.

Although a native of old, whose dark berries were once used by the early Irish to supply a blue dye for colouring clothing, the plant is just as important today. For one, it is extremely tolerant of atmospheric pollution, one of modern life's downsides. Another benefit is privets ability to grow happily in the full shade of a wall, a planting location that is becoming quite common in today's world of housing estates and their associated small back gardens.

Once established, our native privet also tolerates drought, limey or chalky soils, and has good survival rate if transplanted, this being handy if you wish to take your plant with you when you move house. So all in all an adaptable native shrub, but what does it look like, I hear you ask.

Well, I would class it as a suckering or thicket-forming shrub; its erect multi-branched stems providing welcome cover for our local birds. The stems greyish-brown in colour and smooth to the touch can be expected to grow at a rate of 1.5ft a year under good conditions, eventually reaching a maximum height and spread of 12ft (4 metres). The plants thin immature stems commonly have a slightly downy covering which disappears after the about the first year.

For those of you who hate to see a bare leafless garden throughout winter, you will be pleased to know that the leaves that clothe our common privet are semi-evergreen. This means that the oval, pointed and slightly glossy leaves will remain on the bush in all but the very coldest Irish winters. A few of the leaves growing opposite each other up along the stems tend to turn a light purple in colour during mild winters without shedding.

In the summer from June to July the privet produces cone-like clusters of creamy-white tubular flowers with a strong scent, one which some people find overpowering or unpleasant. Not so the numerous insects and especially moths which rely on them for nectar.

. . Irish native privet fruit/berry, flower, photo / pic / image.

This brings us to the fruit of the privet, a direct and decorative result of the flowers. The shiny black berries as well as looking lustrous from September to October, provide a feast for our native birds, with the thrush being particularly active around the plants I have seen. So if you plant Ligustrum vulgare within your garden, I can see you winning lots of bonus points from the local insect and bird population.

Two final points to be aware of when it comes to choosing this privet for your garden are that are that the fruits are poisonous (mind those children), and the plant itself is quite invasive, so best planted in a good open space or as part of a wild hedgerow.

Chart shows approximate distribution of the native plant within Ireland, each dot is a 10km square in which the species grows.

Back to native Irish shrubs.

Hazel images courtesy
Nava Tabak, Invasive Plant Atlas of New England,

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