A couple of real troublemakers at Camp Salmen are the privets of the Ligustrum clan. No, these are not degenerate, marauders of Norwegian stock, as their name suggests, they are invasive plant species from Asia. They and their seven cousins were “invited” to this country as well-behaved decorative plants but have since become naturalized, escaped into the wild and gone crazy. Since they were from latitudes similar to those in the U.S. they quite liked it here and decided stay and take over. They out-compete our sweet, innocent, native plants and are in the middle of attempting to crowd them out of existence and replace them.
Most of us are familiar with the thick, waxy, dark green leaves of Japanese Ligustrum, also called Wax-leaf Privet (Ligustrum japonicum). People have actually encouraged this plant by inviting it on their property. Its durability and robustness make landscapers swoon, so they use it in hedges. If left alone and not trimmed it can grow into a small tree. It pops up here and there in the park but does not spread very readily.
The real troublemaker is the beast that wants to take over the world — Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense). It’s the type of plant that takes advantage of any gap in the vegetation by filling in the space with itself and lording over its neighbors to shade them out. If it’s stuck in the shade it will get by in a reduced state as an awkward, scraggly-looking shrub with smaller leaves and sparse, wiry branches. At one time, this wiriness led agricultural agencies across the South to promote it as a poor man’s livestock fence if it was grown close together. This, of course, helped it spread like wildfire.
Its worst side comes out if it finds itself in a place with enough sun and room to grow. It grows dense splays of long, arching branches, each edged with twin rows of larger paired, oval leaves that soak up the sun year ‘round, for it is an evergreen. The problem is there are too many of them. They grow all over the park, muscling their way in between the other plants, reaching up and over, spreading out to shade their neighbors, starve them of sunlight and starve them to death. Nice guys, huh? They are targeted for removal in the park but it is an uphill battle.