Blooming chaste tree: perfect foil for agaves and aloes
In our backyard, there is a beautiful tree that is visible from the dining room window and from the sidewalk on the south side of the house. People invariably ask what it is, and when we tell them it’s a chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus), they get a blank look on their face—either because they have never heard of it before, or they can’t quite figure out what chastity has to do with it. I had no idea either so I did some research. I love what I found on Wikipedia:
In ancient times it was believed to be an anaphrodisiac, hence the name chaste tree. Pliny, in his Historia Naturalis, reports the use of stems and leaves of this plant by women as bedding "to cool the heat of lust" during the time of the Thesmophoria, when Athenian women left their husband's beds to remain ritually chaste. […] Chaucer, in "The Flower and the Leaf," refers to it as an attribute of the chaste Diana, and in the 16th century the English herbalist William Turner reports the same anaphrodisiac properties of the seed, both fried and not fried. More recently, this plant has been called monk's pepper in the thought that it was used as anti-libido medicine by monks to aid their attempts to remain chaste. There are disputed accounts regarding its actual action on libido, with some claims that it is anaphrodisiac and others that it is aphrodisiac. Because of the complex mechanism of action it can be probably both, depending on concentration of the extract and physiologic variables (see below).A few years ago somebody posted a note on our local Freecycle site looking for chaste-tree berries, and she did come by and collect some from our tree. I wonder what she was using them for?
We bought our chaste tree as a tiny plant in a four-inch pot, and in the 15 years it’s been in the ground it has grown into compact 15 ft. tree that provides beautiful filtered shade.
During the day, the tree is abuzz with all kinds of bees, including large black carpenter bees. I love ducking under the branches, now weighed down by the blossoms, and being surrounded by a symphony of bee sounds.
All the photos below were taken from the sidewalk along the south side of the house. I think the chaste tree harmonizes perfectly with the 'Sonoran Emerald' palo verde (Parkisonsia 'Sonoran Emerald'.
|The coral flower spikes are from red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)|
|The silver pom-pom in the foreground is a cushion bush from New Zealand (Leucophyta brownii)|
|Soon this branch of the chaste tree will have to be removed to make room for our 'Hercules' tree aloe (Aloidendron 'Hercules')|
|Our "desert bed" has never looked as good as it does now|
|So many of my favorite plants in one spot!|