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Privet (Ligustrum spp)

ISSN 2398-2977

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Synonym(s): Box privet

Podcast: Privet (Ligustrum spp)


  • Comprising at least 50 species, privets are native to eastern Asia, Australasia, and the Mediterranean areas. Some are cultivated as ornamentals and hedges.
  • Deciduous or evergreen shrubs with simple, elliptic, glossy green leaves.
  • Flowers are produced in terminal clusters, comprising small funnel-shaped white, often fragrant flowers. Fruits are purple to black berries with several seeds   Privet (Ligustrum spp)      Box Privet (Ligustrum vulgare)  .
  • Poisoning in children from eating the berries.
  • Privet poisoning is rare in animals but has been reported in horses, cattle and sheep.
  • All parts of the plant, and especially the berries are toxic.
  • Inadvisable to plant privets in or around horse enclosures.


  • The toxin(s) in Privets vary with the species and likely are irritant terpenoid glycosides.
  • Alkaloids, glycosides and resins have been isolated from the leaves.
  • The toxin(s) have primary gastrointestinal and some neurological effects depending on the species.

Clinical signs

  • Colic   Abdomen: pain - adult  and diarrhea.
  • Incoordination and hindlimb paralysis.
  • Deaths have been reported in cattle eating privets.


  • Evidence of exposure and eating of privets.
  • Gastrointestinal irritation.



  • Depends on the quantity of privet consumed.

Further Reading


Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Knight A & Hall J (2004) The 10 Most Dangerous Plants for Horses. Equus 320, 71-81.
  • Burrows G E & Tyrl R J (2001) Toxic Plants of North America. Iowa State University Press, USA.
  • Knight A P & Walter R G (2001) A Guide to Plant Poisoning of Animals in North America. Teton New Media, USA.
  • Knight A P & Walter R G (2001) A Guide to Plant Poisoning of Animals in North America.Teton New Media, USA.
  • Burrows G E & Tyrl R J (2001) Toxic Plants of North America. Iowa State University Press, USA.
  • Allison K (1999) A Guide to Plants Poisonous to Horses. J A Allen & Co Ltd. ISBN: 0851316980.
  • Cheeke P R (1998) Carcinogens and Metabolic Inhibitors. In: Natural Toxicants in Feeds, Forages and Poisonous Plants. Ed: Cheeke P R. Interstate Publishers Inc. Danville, Illinois. pp 423-444.
  • Cooper M R & Johnson A W (1998) Poisonous Plants and Fungi - An Illustrated Guide. The Stationery Office. ISBN: 0112429815.
  • Allison K & Day C (1997) A Guide to Plants Poisonous to Horses. British Association of Holistic Nutrition and Medicine.
  • Kingsbury J M (1964) Poisonous Plants of the United States and Canada. Prentice-Hall Inc. Englewood Cliffs, USA.


  • Cornell University. Poisonous Plants Informational Database. Website:
  • Guide to Poisonous Plants. Website:
  • Website:
  • Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), London Center, Medical Toxicology Unit, Avonley Road, London SE14 5ER, UK. Tel: +44 (0)20 7635 9195; Fax: +44 (0)20 7771 5309.
  • Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), Leeds Center, The General Infirmary, Great George Street, Leeds LS1 3EX, UK. Tel: +44 (0)113 245 0530; Fax: +44 (0)113 244 5849.