Privet Shrub Smells Like Spring

Early in the day during my walk at the Box Huckleberry Natural Area I was stopped in my tracks by nice sweet smell. It smelled like a spring day and that’s about all I can say to describe the lovely scent.

I looked around and the thing was I couldn’t find the source of the smell. I did see some pinxter flower, the wild pink azalea. It was barely blooming yet with flower buds formed and only one of them open. It looked like they may even open later in the day but only one of them was opened so far and I can’t think the scent that I smelled was due to a single flower down the trail.

Smokey says the pinxter flower doesn't have a lovely scent.
Smokey says the pinxter flower doesn't have a lovely scent.

There was hardly any of the box huckleberry still blooming so I wasn’t sure where this lovely scent came from. The neat thing was it stopped me in my tracks, so I took a moment to look all around me. I couldn’t find what was blooming to make such a nice scent and then I spotted them – I saw a whole bunch of moccasin flowers or Pink Lady’s Slippers. They don’t have any smell of their own, but I was truly appreciative of the pretty scent having helped me find them.

Later in the same day I was over on the Middle Ridge Trail at Little Buffalo State Park when I came across the same lovely smell. This time it was easy to find the scent producer. A Privet shrub, Ligustrum vulgare, had taken up residence some years ago right next to the trail and now it was tree-sized, probably twenty feet tall.

A branch of the privet hedge tree.
A branch of the privet hedge tree.

Privet shrub blooming with 3-4 inch long oval pointed leaves. The four pointed trumpet-like blooms were opening in all their glory.

Trumpet-like four-pointed blooms of Privet.
Trumpet-like four-pointed blooms of Privet.

Tubular blossoms open to show four points. Note there are still some unopened flowers in the bud stage.

A couple years ago I saw a privet shrub right next to a stop sign. In the adjacent meadow there were a dozen or more privet shrubs that you could readily see during their bloom time in mid-Spring. The white blossoms just about cover the little shrubs. Well, being at a stop sign I guess it was noticed by someone else. When I went during the autumn to collect the scented shrub, it was gone. Perhaps the road crew beat me to it.

It was stopping at the stop sign and smelling the lovely privet blossoms that introduced me to Privet. Even though it can be invasive, I will continue to enjoy its scent when I smell it.

Privet is a shrub native to Europe and alien to the U.S. Most wildflower guides don’t have information on Privet, due to its being a shrub and not an herbaceous plant, except the Newcomb Wildflower Guide which does cover some shrubbery.

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2 thoughts on “Privet Shrub Smells Like Spring”

  1. Hey Jude!

    That’s good to know for those sneezing watery-eye sufferers. I guess people can be allergic to anything!

    So, privet shrubs are also in Australia?

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