Vitex agnus-castus

Plant of the month: July

Also Known As: Chaste tree

Native To: Mediterranean

Blooms: Summer to autumn

Habitat: Riverbanks and coastal areas

Where found at BBG: Mediterranean House

 

This is a large, spreading, deciduous or evergreen shrub with palmate leaves, consisting of five or seven pointed aromatic leaflets. The fragrant blue flowers form clusters at the end of the stems from summer to autumn.

This plant likes a sunny, sheltered position with well-drained soil so make sure you give it adequate protection over the winter months.

The name Vitex is derived from the Latin vieo, meaning to weave or to tie-up as this plant is used in basketry. Its specific name agnus-castus means ‘chaste’ in both Greek and Latin and is believed to be sacred to the goddess Hestia (Greek goddess of the household) and Vesta (Latin goddess of the household). It has long been believed that it is an aphrodisiac, hence it’s common name ‘chaste tree’, although this has not been proven.

Propagation is best done from cuttings taken in July or August and inserted into a sandy mix in a cold frame.