Privet (also called in England prim and primprint), a name formerly given to the primrose, and afterward unaccountably transferred to ligustrum vulgare, the generic name being the classical Latin one. It is a shrub which has been so much cultivated that in Europe its limits in a wild state are quite lost, but it is thought to be indigenous in England; it grows 6 or 8 ft. high, with long slender branches and opposite simple leaves, which in mild climates are evergreen, or remain until the new leaves appear. Its small white flowers, in compact panicles at the ends of the branches, have a four-toothed calyx and a four-lobed corolla, with a short tube; the fruit is a spherical, black berry, two-celled, with one or two seeds in each cell. It belongs to the same family with the olive, to which it. is closely related. The privet is largely used in Europe for ornamental hedges, and was early in the century planted as a hedge in this country; but while it has many qualities which adapt it to the purpose, it is here subject to a sudden blight or disease which has caused it to be abandoned. In the older states it has become thoroughly naturalized through the agency of birds.
Planted in a shady place, it is a pleasing ornamental shrub, but if exposed to the full sun at noon, its flowers wither in a day; it grows well in the drip of deciduous trees, and is especially useful near the sea, where few ornamental plants flourish. The wood of the privet is hard and close-grained, and when of sufficient size serves for turning. The leaves and bark are bitter, and the smaller twigs are used in some parts of Europe for tanning leather. The young slender branches and shoots are employed like osiers for basket making and as withes. The berries afford a rose color which is used in tinting maps and prints, and dye green if alum is used as a mordant; they are also eaten by several kinds of birds. A greenish oil fit for lamps or to make soap is extracted from them by pressure. There are several varieties, such as the white-, yellow-, and green-berried, the narrow-leaved, and the variegated leaved. It is readily propagated by cuttings or by seeds. - The Japan privet (Z. Japonicum) has large, thick, shining, evergreen leaves, which are broader than in the common species, and larger, pure white, slightly fragrant flowers.
This and a variegated form of it are charming greenhouse shrubs in the northern states, but grow in the open air at the south.
Privet (Ligustrum vulgare).