Fighting Invasives: Still time to knock out Privet

Published 8:18 am Thursday, December 14, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Christmas is around the corner and it might be a good idea to ask Santa Claus for herbicide to fight invasive plants. Late fall may not be the most popular time to manage habitat but there are still opportunities to get some work done. 

Privet, regardless of subspecies, forms a hedge of destruction to native plant communities in Mississippi. It is a semi-evergreen plant species and keeps its leaves and metabolic activity going for much of the year. 

Lincoln County Forester Steven Williams with the Mississippi Forestry Commission said privet really only slows down when cold snaps hit the area. Privet then bounces back when it is warm. Typically, the late fall is not the best time to target species but it could be a great time to attack privet hedges in hardwood stands. Foliage sprays from the air this time of year are one option if the privet has grown up a lot. 

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“Along a creek and in a hardwood stand you could spray it with glyphosate right now. It is time to do that. You have let the hardwoods get dormant,” Williams said. “Use glyphosate on the foliage and it will work on it without hurting the trees. Privet carries on its metabolic activity when it is warm.” 

Land managers and owners should remember to always target the metabolic activity of plants when spraying them with herbicides. Williams said the general recommendation for the area is to spray herbicides from July 15 to the first hard frost because plants send resources down to the roots rather than growing quickly out. 

Glyphosate is not the only herbicide needed to fight privet. Arsenal can be used to kill privet but should be applied in pinewood stands due to the soil activity and potential harm it brings to hardwood species.

A basal treatment is another way to fight privet. Williams said the herbicide applicator targets the bark of privet or other unwanted woody brush with a spray of Garlon 4 or Triclopyr Ester. This treatment works on privet and the native yaupon holly. 

Hack and squirt is another option to fight privet and other unwanted trees or woody brush. Arsenal is often the best for hack and squirt and should not be used around hardwoods such as oaks. Williams said a simple spray bottle from Walmart with a proper mix of arsenal and water and a hatchet is all you need. 

For every three inches of diameter at breast height the applicator makes one hack on the trunk and before spraying the hacks. Privet grows well in Mississippi’s climate and across different landscapes so it is best to have different ways to fight it. 

“Privet is a concern because if you don’t do anything with it will take over,” Williams said. “It just takes spraying. Make sure you follow label instructions and get a herbicide prescription from an applicator or manufacturer. Target the metabolic activity.” 

Check back next week for a story on other invasive plants such as persian silk trees and cogon grass.