It is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing to 2–5 m (rarely 6 m) tall, with smooth, pale grey-brown bark on the stems. The leaves are opposite, 5–10 cm long and 2–5 cm broad, glossy dark green above, paler glaucous to yellowish green below, thick and leathery textured, and with an entire margin. The flowers are white, with a four-lobed corolla 5–6 mm long; they are borne in clusters 7–15 cm long in early summer.  The fruit is an oval drupe, 10 mm long, ripening purple-black with a glaucous waxy bloom in early winter; in Japan they are popularly likened to mouse or rat droppings. The species is closely related to the Chinese Ligustrum lucidum, differing in its smaller size (L. lucidum making a tree to over 10 m tall), and elongated oval (not subglobose) fruit.
Cultivation and uses
The plant arrived in North America in the early 1800s and has become an invasive plant, particularly in the American South. It is occasionally grown as an ornamental plant in Europe and North America; a number of cultivars have been selected for garden use, including "Rotundifolium" with leaves nearly as broad as long, and "Silver Star" with creamy-white margins to the leaves.
- John R. Seiler, Edward C. Jensen, or John A. Peterson. "Japanese Privet". vTree. Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation.
- Hata Plant Ecology Laboratory: Ligustrum japonicum (in Japanese; google translation)
- Rokko Mountain guide to trees: Ligustrum japonicum (in Japanese; google translation)
- Kizzu Guide: Ligustrum japonicum (in Japanese; google translation)
- Yakusou medicinal plants: Ligustrum japonicum (in Japanese; google translation)
- Flavon's Wild herb and Alpine plants: Ligustrum japonicum
- "Japanese privet". Invasive Plant Atlas. July 15, 2013. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
- Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
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