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Vitex negundo L.

Modern name

Vitex negundo L.

A deciduous shrub up to 10 ft high. Leaves digitate, with three to seven, usually five, stalked leaflets, which are elliptic or narrow-elliptic or oblong to lanceolate, acute to acuminate at the apex, cuneate at the base, 258 to 4 in. long, 58 to 1316 in. wide, margin entire or with a few large blunt lobule-like teeth. Inflorescence a loose panicle terminating the shoots of the year and made up of several spikes 6 to 9 in. long, along which the flowers are arranged in rather distant clusters. Calyx downy, deeply and sharply lobed. Corolla violet-blue, rather smaller than in V. agnus-castus.

V. negundo is widely distributed from India and Ceylon to China and Formosa, commonly in waste places near villages. Although cultivated in Europe since the 17th century, it has always been rare in Britain, where it is usually represented by the following variety:

var. heterophylla (Franch.) Rehd. V. incisa Lam.; V. negundo var. incisa (Lam.) C.B.Cl.; V. chinensis Mill.; V. incisa var. heterophylla Franch. – This differs by its leaflets being smaller, 1 to 2 in. (rarely to 312 in.) long, 12 to 34 in. wide, coarsely and deeply toothed or lobulate, the divisions often reaching to the midrib or nearly so. Bot. Mag., t. 364. It is a native of the northern provinces of China. It was introduced to Paris around the middle of the 18th century by one of the French Jesuit missionaries, and to Britain (c. 1758) by Philip Miller, who ‘was favoured with some young plants by Monsieur Richard, gardener to the King at Versailles.’

Although not truly tender, this is a shrub that needs abundant summer heat if it is to flower and ripen its wood, and succeeds with the protection of a wall. But being in competition with the many finer plants adapted for wall cultivation, it scarcely keeps its place in gardens.

An extreme form of the var. heterophylla is ‘Multifida’, dwarf and free flowering, at least in France, with very deeply dissected leaves (Rev. Hort., 1870, p. 415).

Vitex negundo

Vitex negundo



Other species in the genus