This 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.
In 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.
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
Foliage: 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