Plant portrait: Vitex negundo

Vitex negundo

Taiwan ninjin boku – タイワンニンジンボク – 台湾人参木
Five-leaved chaste tree

Native to parts of Africa and Asia, including Japan.
Height: ~8m
Bloom: July – August
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Soil: Medium moisture, well-drained, alkaline
Hardiness: Hardy in warm winter climates
USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-9

The fabulous tree

I found this tree in May in the Kiyosumi garden where it has just grown new leaves at that time. It looked different than any tree I know. Shrubs yes, trees no, and I couldn’t find it when searching the internet. However, thanks to a lucky incident with Google earth, I identified it as Vitex negundo.

After reading a little bit more about this tree I found it sad that it isn’t commonly used here, because it is quite interesting.

Climate

I guess the climate in Tokyo isn’t perfect for this deciduous tree. When the winters are too cold, it usually grows as a shrub and since deciduous shrubs and trees aren’t popular at the moment, it seems not to be used very often.

Appearance

However, its appearance is very pleasing. The leaves are filigree and three- or five-leaved and the flowers remind at Lilac or Russian sage. It has an aromatic smell and attracts butterflies and bees. This is one of the reasons why I want to give this tree a little more attention!

If you have the right conditions at home, please consider planting a Vitex! It’s a beautiful tree which also helps wildlife in your garden!

Traditional uses

In the Phillippines, it is used to treat stored garlic against pests and it is said that it can control mosquitoes. But I do not know how..

Vitex negundo is also a traditional treatment for women’s health and cough, especially in Malaysia.

The roots and leaves are used for herb teas and the plant is used in Kanpo medicine against diarrhea and headache.

Vitex negundo


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