Culver Seedling Identified

by Carl Strang

This story began in February. On a visit to Culver, Indiana, I found a seedling, surprisingly sprouting in winter.

February cotyledons b

I did not recognize it, and was determined to identify it. What seed germinates that time of year? On several subsequent visits I watched the seedling’s continuing development. Here it is in mid-May.

Seedling 16MY 2b

Finally at the end of May I took the time to survey nearby plants to find the best match. By this time I was satisfied that the seedling was a woody plant, and a shrub rather than a tree or vine. Possible parent plants in the vicinity included spicebush.

Spicebush Culver b

But spicebush has an alternate leaf arrangement. I am familiar enough with two of the other 3 similar candidates to rule them out. It’s not a honeysuckle.

Honeysuckle Culver b

Leaf shape and growth form are wrong. It’s not a buckthorn.

Buckthorn Culver b

Though buckthorns have semi-opposite leaves, their leaves are toothed. Besides, buckthorn seedlings have this odd, distinctive look:

Buckthorn seedlings b

One candidate remains. I showed its photo a couple weeks ago, and Scott N. of the Through Handlens and Binoculars  blog (link in left margin of my blog’s frame) suggested common privet. I remembered encountering a colony of that European shrub at Fullersburg Woods in DuPage County last year. It was flowering in mid-June.

Common privet 1b

As I wound my way through the woods in Culver surrounding the mystery seedling’s seep, I found a lot of these shrubs. There were a few that had survived in the wet low area, but most were thriving in the drier, more elevated locations. None were flowering, but many had flower buds. They will bloom in June.

Privet Culver 2b

The type of flower clusters, their location at the tips of twigs, and their incumbent white coloration confirms the identification.

Privet Culver 3b

The mystery seedling is a common privet, Ligustrum vulgare. The limited resources I have checked say nothing about its capacity to germinate in mid-winter. That may be unusual, and my interest is reduced somewhat by the plant’s not being a native species, but the experience has been satisfying and worthwhile, nevertheless.


  1. June 22, 2009 at 6:12 am

    […] which proved  to be the identity of my mystery seedling in Culver, Indiana, and the similar border privet. […]

  2. November 4, 2009 at 6:53 am

    […] seedling that appeared in the middle of winter in a swampy spot at Culver, Indiana. The seedling proved to be a common privet. It soon was overtopped by the large leaves of surrounding skunk cabbages, and I was curious as to […]

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