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Suffering from allergies?

It’s that time of the year when many of us are suffering from allergens in the air. 

Neighbouring privet trees often get blamed as the cause of allergy symptoms, but that’s not usually the case.  Actual causes could be pollens such as grasses, weeds (mainly English plantain), or trees such as birch and olive.

If you think you’re being affected by a nearby privet tree, the first thing to do is have a chat with the property owner and come to an agreement on how to manage the tree. 

If that doesn’t work, you’ll need a positive allergy test to confirm that privet is the cause.  That’s when we’ll jump in, and based on where the tree is, request the property owner to sort it. 


Why it is a pest plant

Image - threat status

Privet is an evergreen shrub or tree with at least four species found in New Zealand. These include tree privet (Ligustrum lucidum), Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense), Californian privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) and common privet (Ligustram vulgare). Both tree privet and Chinese privet are tolerant of drought, as well as cold and wet conditions.

Privet’s leaves and berries are poisonous to animals and people. Its pollen and scent is also believed by some to contribute to respiratory disorders such as asthma and hay fever. However, because research shows privet is not a strong allergen for most people, a positive allergy test is needed before the regional council can require a privet tree to be removed on health grounds.

Privet is also an environmental pest, rapidly invading bush margins and waste areas. Tree privet is capable of crowding out canopy trees in native forests, may impede native seedling germination and can eventually dominate an area of forest. Chinese privet can displace shrubs on the margins of native forests.

Privet is widespread and common in the Waikato region.

Controlling privet

What privet looks like

Tree privet


  • Small, cream-coloured flowers that are strongly scented and appear from January to March.


  • Dark purple-black berries.
  • Seeds spread by birds.


  • Glossy leaves that are dark green on top and paler green underneath.

Chinese privet


  • Small white flowers that are strongly scented and appear from September to December.


  • Dark purple-black berries.
  • Seeds spread by birds.


  • Leaves are small and dull green with wavy edges.

Tree and chinese privet

More information


  • For advice and additional information on control methods, call our pest plant staff on freephone 0800 BIOSEC (0800 246 732).
  • Chemical company representatives, farm supply stores and garden centres can also be good sources for advice.


Contact us and order a copy

  • National Pest Plant Accord - Manual of plants banned from sale, propagation and distribution ($10 plus GST)
  • Plant Me Instead! - Plants to use in place of common pest plants (free)
  • Waikato Regional Council pest guide (free) 

On this website

Other websites

Read or download our privet factsheet