Most of us are familiar with the “domestic” privet that makes dense hedges up and down the country but it’s possible that you won’t be familiar with it’s wilder and more interesting cousin the wild privet.
Unlike the clipped hedges of suburbia wild privet is not a very dense or indeed tall-growing plant and may only reach 30cm of so in height as an adult plant. The overall impression is one of a leggy, scruffy bush with leaves very reminiscent of an olive. These “olive-like” leaves make perfect sense because wild privet is closely related to the olive plant and indeed taxonomists have placed them in the same family thanks to their similarity.
Possibly the most interesting – and surprising – thing about wild privet are the flowers which it bears in early summer. These lilac-like bracts are pure, glossy white with an almost waxy appearance and can be several inches in length on larger specimens.
Best of all they have a rich, sweet scent to them that reminded me of honeysuckle. In other words if you find a wild privet in flower on your nature walks it’s well worth taking the time to get down on your knees and give it a good sniff as it’s one of the most pleasantly-scented British flowers I have personally come across.