Q: This tree was on our lot when we built the house. In winter it has a lot of berries. Any idea what it might be?
A: It’s Japanese ligustrum, Ligustrum japonicum. You’re probably very familiar with Chinese ligustrum, Ligustrum chinense, also known as privet hedge.
I thought at first that this plant was Carolina cherrylaurel but my astute colleague Theresa Schrum pointed out that the leaves are opposite each other on a stem, unlike the alternate arrangement on cherrylaurel.
Like its cousin, Japanese ligustrum is considered an invasive nuisance.
Long racemes of white flowers occur on branch tips in spring.
Birds eat the berries after they have been frozen a few times, when they are soft. As a result seedlings come up nearby.