Meet the privet bush. Brought to Australia for use as a hedge, some privet species got comfortable and went on to overstay their welcome as they invaded areas of native bushland, orchards and pastures.
Aided in distribution by plant nurseries, three privet species have become weedy in eastern and southern Australia. Broad-leaf privet, European Privet and Narrow-leaf privet together form a band of hooligans that we're struggling to keep out of our native bush and gardens. Many other privet species are less problematic and one species (Ligustrum australianum) is native to the Queensland rainforest.
Partial to low level of light, problem privets lurk in gullies, creeks and under the canopy of large tree species. Dense stands of privet prevent native species from growing and block out light for ground dwelling plants.
Weedy privets are recognisable plants. The fruit ripens on small trees or shrubs in autumn and winter following white flowers that bloom through summer. You might spot their characteristic ripe purple berries among dense bushes with dark green leaves. These berries are delicious for birds and rabbits, which then disperse their seeds to new and exciting horizons. As is a common characteristic for weedy species, privets are the queens of reproduction. Some species may have up to 10,000,000 seeds at maturity.
The strong scent of the flowers can cause allergic reactions that resemble hay fever for many people. The flowers and leaves are mildly toxic to humans and livestock so unlike delicious weeds like blackberries, there's not much point keeping privet around.
If you want to learn more about weeds like privet, NSW Department of Primary Industries recently brought out an App called "NSW WeedWise" where you can learn to identify the problem plants around you. Removing these species from gardens and nurseries is the first step to reducing their spread so it's worth learning what lives around you.
Your local native plant nursery will be able to help you find a native hedge alternative. Plants like Callistimon and Grevillas are great options. Often when we grow native plants around us, we encourage native animals to visit so it's worth getting on board and going native so you can help support the nature around you.