Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A New Invader

Two years ago I encountered this medium sized shrub in an odd corner near the road.  I couldn’t identify it at the time, even though there was something strangely familiar about its appearance.  I left it in place in hopes that it would someday produce flowers that would allow me to follow through with an identification.  That finally happened this year.

These white flowers are produced by the Privet, Ligustrum vulgare, a common landscape species that can easily escape into the wild.  Outside of the garden setting, this non-native plant becomes invasive.  I think it most likely that the original seed for this particular specimen was brought to Blue Jay Barrens by a bird that had dined on the fruit.  Since the plant became established near the roadside, it is also possible that fruit or seed traveled by car or truck and disembarked here as the vehicle passed on the road.

As soon as I saw the plant name it occurred to me why the plant seemed so familiar.  Privet is easily shaped by pruning and is commonly planted in rows to create a formal hedge.  My grandfather once had hundreds of feet of privet hedge surrounding his yard and when he could no longer handle the job, I was drafted to be his hedge trimming assistant.  Being the assistant meant that I wielded the huge double edged electric trimmers while Grandpa sat in the shade calling out directions.  The first thing he told me was to keep the trimmers away from the cord, but the three 100 foot sections of extension cord bringing power to the trimmers were already weighted by about 25 pounds of multi-colored electrical tape protecting splices where the cord had previously been severed.  In fact, he cut through the cord while showing me the proper way to handle the trimmers.  After all of the agonizing hours I spent trimming that hedge, you would have thought I’d recognize that leaf right off.

Of course, properly trimmed hedges never get the chance to flower.  I doubt that even smiley faced flowers would have made the trimming job any easier.

It wasn’t unhappy childhood memories that made me cut down the Privet.  The best time to eliminate an invasive species is when the first one shows up on the property.  Minutes after being added to the Blue Jay Barrens plant list, the shrub was cut and sprayed.  The name stays on the list, but there is a notation that the plant is now considered to be extirpated from the property.  I’m always happy to add another species to the plant list and I’m thrilled to eliminate an invasive species, so discovery of this plant provided multiple pleasures.

I was trying to do a growth ring count to determine approximately how long ago this specimen arrived here.  As is sometimes the case with shrubs, multiple rings can appear that are not related to annual growth cycles.  My count was inconclusive.  My estimate places the arrival of the original seed to be somewhere between several and many years ago.

I hope you don’t think that I’m one of those people who would take the opportunity to use a photo like this as the last of a sequence and caption it with a tired old pun like THE END.  You’ll not see that here. 


  1. ...I enjoyed this post, Steve. You made me chuckle. My grandpa had a privet hedge as well--until he got tired of trimming it, and he cut it down! (Glad he did that before I was old enough to wield pruners!)

  2. Hi Kelly. I can laugh about this now, but there was no humor while experiencing the actual event.