A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste Tree)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

The chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is a large shrub that is only just winter-hardy in our climate. When grown with some protection, such as against the sunny wall, however, it will produce masses of spikes of lilac-purple flowers late in the summer.the-plant

Pollinators, including bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds, love these fragrant flowers and may be seen busily collecting nectar on any warm afternoon.close-up

Originally from southern Europe, it can be found in many of the warmer parts of the world. We have two fine examples along our Lower Lawn Road, which runs below the Great Lawn and the Pergola. The first shot is looking north towards the Pergola, just visible above the roadway.setting-north

The second is looking south toward Glyndor Gallery, barely visible in the far right of the shot.setting-south

It has been called chaste tree for many centuries. Ancient Greeks, Romans and medieval monks all believed that taking a decoction made from the tree’s fruits and /or shoots would encourage chaste behavior.

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