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Chinese Privet at Sanford Stadium

With college football kicking  off this weekend,  I have a little history on the hedges at Sanford Stadium

By Doug Collins, Lee County Extension Coordinator

Among the privets, Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) is the outlaw of the family.  Brought into the United States just shy of a decade before the start of the American Civil War, this plant has escaped from cultivation and become a noxious weed.  It is spread by birds and is common along roadsides and in woods.  It can thrive in shade or full sun.  One variety of this species is sold as a landscape plant.  Other than that, it is generally considered a nuisance.  In our climate, it is pretty much an evergreen.  In colder climates, it is deciduous.

Chinese privet has one claim to fame in Georgia.  The famed hedges in the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium are composed of Chinese privet plants.  When Sanford Stadium was built in the 1920’s, the business manager of the athletic association had been impressed with the rose bushes in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California and wanted to have something similar in UGA’s new stadium.  Rose bushes were deemed not to be the best choice for the Athens climate, so Chinese privet was planted.  The privet was reportedIy trucked into Athens from Atlanta as the result of a last-minute decision and planted by workers with shovels and flashlights just hours before the stadium’s inaugural game against Yale. I have heard a story that a species other than Chinese privet was originally planted and the Chinese privet later invaded and pushed out the previously planted plants.  I have found no documentation supporting this legend.

The hedges were removed in 1996 to allow Sanford Stadium to be used as a soccer venue for the 1996 Summer Olympics.  Before they were removed, cuttings were taken to propagate new plants so that the hedges could be restored after the Olympics.  Enough new plants were propagated so that some could be sold.  A fellow county agent bought one of these plants.  I kidded him for paying good money for a noxious weed.