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Publication #FPS-213

Forestiera segregata: Florida Privet1

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Deborah R. Hilbert, and Drew C. McLean2

Introduction

Florida privet is a 10- to 15-foot-tall shrub or small tree that is densely foliated with small, evergreen leaves. The dark, glossy green leaves are oblong to elliptic in shape and are sometimes shed in the winter. The form commonly found in south Florida (Dade County) has a much smaller leaf than those from other parts of the state. The bark of the younger trees is light brown or gray, and older specimens have a pale yellow bark that is mottled with light brown and green. The bark of the older trees is also roughened by many small, raised lenticels. Bees are attracted to the tiny, corolla-less flowers that have greenish yellow or reddish purple stamens. These flowers are borne individually or in clusters of three or four along the branches, and they occur in the winter and early spring before the new leaves emerge. The fruits are black berries that ripen in the spring and summer. The birds favor these berries, and the plant produces the fruits in abundance.

Figure 1. 

Full Form—Forestiera segregata: Florida privet


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General Information

Scientific name: Forestiera segregata

Pronunciation: far-ress-TEER-uh seg-reg-AY-tuh

Common name(s): Florida privet, Florida swamp privet, Southern privet

Family: Oleaceae

Plant type: tree

USDA hardiness zones: 8B through 11 (Figure 2)

Origin: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and many of the Caribbean Islands

UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: native

Planting month for zone 8: year round

Planting month for zone 9: year round

Uses: superior hedge; espalier; specimen; screen; attracts butterflies

Figure 2. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.


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Description

Height: 10 to 15 feet

Spread: 5 to 10 feet

Plant habit: upright; oval

Plant density: dense

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: fine

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: opposite/subopposite

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: oblong

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: ½ to 2 inches

Leaf color: dark green and glossy on top, pale green underneath

Fall color: no fall color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Leaf—Forestiera segregata: Florida privet


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Flower

Flower color: yellow green

Flower characteristic: spring flowering; winter flowering; emerges in clusters from leaf axils

Flowering: winter and early spring

Figure 4. 

Flower—Forestiera segregata: Florida privet


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Fruit

Fruit shape: oval

Fruit length: less than .5 inch

Fruit cover: fleshy drupe

Fruit color: black

Fruit characteristic: attracts birds

Fruiting: spring and summer

Figure 5. 

Fruit—Forestiera segregata: Florida privet


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Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: showy; no thorns

Bark: Gray or brown and smooth, becoming rough with age due to raised lenticels, and turning pale yellow with brown and green intermixed; no thorns

Current year stem/twig color: brown

Current year stem/twig thickness: thin

Figure 6. 

Bark—Forestiera segregata: Florida privet


Credit:

Gitta Hasing


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Culture

Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun

Soil tolerances: extended flooding; acidic; alkaline; sand; loam; clay

Drought tolerance: high

Soil salt tolerances: moderate

Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches

Other

Roots: usually not a problem

Winter interest: no special winter interest

Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding

Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

Florida privet may be successfully used as a specimen or hedge. With regular clipping, it can be planted along a foundation. It makes a superior hedge and is very tolerant of clipping and shearing. Small leaf size and moderate growth rate make it suited for maintaining at almost any height. For best results, keep the lower portion of the hedge wider than the top. Early training can produce a small tree for planting in home landscapes and other areas requiring a small, multi-trunked tree.

This cold hardy plant requires a planting site that receives full sun and a well-drained soil. It grows poorly in mucky soils. Its native, upland coastal habitat associates include bay cedar, Spanish bayonet, cocoplum and other drought and salt tolerant plants. Soils in this habitat are very sandy with shell fragments and a neutral or alkaline pH.

Forestiera acuminata is a similar plant hardy into zone 5 that grows in the swamps. Forestiera ligustrina grows in the flatwoods and mesic upland hardwood forests of Florida.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern.

Additional Reference

Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Footnotes

1.

This document is FPS-213, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Revised December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.