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FloridaGardener's Blog
Jul 19

Written by: host
7/19/2009 1:15 PM

Chasteberry FlowersThis is a lovely bush also known as Chaste Berry, Chasteberry, Hemptree, Agnus castus, Abraham's balm, Monk’s Pepper or simply Vitex and is a member of the Verbenaceae family.

Vitex has the common name "Chastetree" since Athenian women used the leaves in their beds to keep themselves chaste during the feasts of Ceres. This plant is commonly called monk's pepper because it was originally used as anti-libido medicine by monks to aid their attempts to remain celibate. Studies today are showing that chasteberry has a powerful effect on the female reproductive system, in particular through regulation of ovulation increasing fertility and by providing extra support during a woman’s premenstrual and menstrual cycles.

Chasteberry BushIn the garden Chasteberry can be grown as a large, deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub or small, 10 to 15 feet tall tree, and is noteworthy for its showy, summer display of fragrant, upwardly pointing, terminal panicles of lavender blooms which are very attractive to butterflies and bees. This is a “honey plant”.

Chasteberry will grow in full sun to parts shade, in any type of well drained soil and has a high tolerance to drought once established. Insects do not seem to bother this plant, but it is susceptible to leaf spot and root rot (if grown in soil that is too moist). The plant may become lanky and weedy-looking if not pruned on occasion to keep its shape. Propagate by softwood cuttings in early summer or by seeds.

Several cultivars are available which offer flower color variety. ‘Silver Spire’ and ‘Alba’ have white flowers, and ‘Rosea’ has pink flowers.

DESCRIPTION

Height: 10 to 15 feet

Spread: 15 to 20 feet

Crown uniformity: irregular outline or silhouette

Crown shape: round; vase shape

Crown density: moderate

Growth rate: fast

Texture: fine

Chasteberry leavesFoliage: At first glance the leaves are reminiscent of the hemp plant

Leaf arrangement: opposite/subopposite

Leaf type: palmately compound

Leaflet margin: entire

Leaflet shape: lanceolate

Leaflet venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: deciduous; fragrant

Leaflet blade length: 4 to 8 inches; 2 to 4 inches

Leaf color: blue or blue-green; green

Fall color: no fall color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

USDA hardiness zones: 7B through 11

Origin: native to the Mediterranean region

Uses: container or above-ground planter; recommended for buffer strips around parking lots or for median strip plantings in the highway; self-sowing -- may be invasive in the garden from seeds

Copyright ©2009 Paul J. Erdek, FloridaGardener.com

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1 comments so far...

Re: Chasteberry Tree Vitex agnus castus

i love these plants. they are beautiful and sway in the wind. i train them as trees and they create the perfect amount of shade and privacy from neighbors.

By jim on   4/15/2012 8:42 PM

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