Saturday, June 27, 2015

Vitex and the Bees

Bumble bee on Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree) flower spike
Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree) attracts bumble bees (and other pollinators) from dawn to dusk

Chaste tree is not native to Middle Tennesse (it's actually native to the Mediterranean region), but even though I generally favor native plants, I think more people should plant chaste tree.

As you can see from these photos, it's one of the best plants in my garden for attracting pollinators, especially our native bumble bees.

It seems incredibly tough, fast-growing and drought tolerant. The foliage stays pretty pristine throughout the growing season. You can prune it hard during winter dormancy and it will bounce back better than ever the next year since it flowers on new growth.

I've heard some sources describe it as invasive, and it certainly does produce a lot of seed, but personally I've never seen a chaste tree seedling and the birds don't seem interested in the seeds, so I suspect any seedlings that did occur would pop up right around the parent plant. If it starts to self-sow aggressively at some point in the future, I will come back and amend this post, but for now it seems unlikely to become invasive, at least in Middle Tennessee. The concerns about invasiveness seem to be higher in Texas, for example, but even there, some reputable sources recommend the plant. Virginia Cooperative Extension says that there is no empirical data (at least in Virginia?) to substantiate an invasive claim for this plant.

Bumble bees on chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) flower spike
More bumble bees on a chaste tree flower spike

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