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Chaste Tree

Vitex agnus-castus

Vitex agnus-castus photo © Michael Plagens

Photographed along the Salt River in Phoenix, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Oct. 2009.

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RANGE: This non-native plant has escaped cultivation from California across the southern tier of the United States to Florida. It is considered an exotic invasive in many regions. In the Sonoran Desert it tends to occur along rivers where there is a permanent water supply and normally near cities where seeds from cultivated plants have dispersed.

FLOWERS: Spikes of tubular, usu. five-limbed, purple-lavender flowers by summer and into fall.

LEAVES: Leaves are palmately compound, usu. have five leaflets, and are conspicuously aromatic when crushed.

TREE or SHRUB: A small tree or large shrub often branching near ground level.

FRUIT: Spike clusters of dryish golden-yellow berries with four seeds. The berries have been used as a seasoning, "Monks Pepper".


Verbenaceae -- Verbena Family
Lamiaceae -- Mint Family (by some authorities)

More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009