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Any of about 40–50 species of shrubs and small trees in the genus Ligustrum of the olive family that are widely used for hedges, screens, and ornamental plantings. Native to Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Mediterranean, these evergreen or deciduous plants have usually oval, smooth-edged leaves; creamy-white, often odorous clusters of flowers; and black berries. The hardy common privet (L. vulgare), native to northeastern Europe and Britain and naturalized in northeastern North America, is used widely as a hedge plant. Mock privets belong to the genus Phillyrea (same family) and bear small, bright-red fruits that turn purple-black as they mature.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on privet, visit Britannica.com.