Lilac Chaste Tree - Blue Vitex - Monk's Pepper Tree - Hemp Tree
Vitex agnus-castus var. rotundifolia
Lamiaceae (Mint or Dead Nettle) Family
Chaste tree is a deciduous tree or large shrub with a showy summertime flower display. The tree is a sprawling plant that grows 10-20 feet tall and about as wide. Not only is the tree beautiful when in full bloom, but it is also fragrant and attracts pollinating bees and hummingbirds. Its preferred habitat is woodlands and dry areas. Because of its many admirable attributes, the chaste tree is a garden favorite wherever in the world it is grown.
The leaves are 3-4 inches in diameter and palmately compound with 5 to 7 fingerlike leaflets. The foliage is aromatic and is typically grey-green to dark green above and lighter on the undersides. The leaves also bear a striking resemblance to those of the infamous marijuana or hemp (Cannabis spp.) plant, which provides yet another common name, hemp tree.
When in bloom, due to the similarity of the flowers, the chaste tree is sometimes mistaken for butterfly bush (Buddleia) plant. The branched flower clusters are produced on new wood in late spring and early summer in a flush that makes the tree look like a hazy purple cloud. It continues to bloom sporadically until early fall. The color ranges from violet to blue to deep purple.
The fruit is fleshy berry-like containing four seeds that are sometimes used as seasoning, similar to black pepper.