Plant of the Week: Abbeville Blue chaste tree
The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees — chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.
This week we share with you one of our gardeners’ current favorites.
Blooming along the 23rd Street Lawn is the Abbeville Blue chaste tree, Vitex agnus-castus ‘Abbeville Blue,’ a modestly-sized tree with fragrant lavender-blue flowers. Abbeville Blue is one of several varieties of Vitex agnus-castus, which are known colloquially by different names: Vitex, chaste tree, chasteberry, or Monk's Pepper.
Names like “chaste tree” and “Monk’s Pepper” reference the plant’s historical use as libido-lowering medicine for men. From Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historiae to Geoffrey Chaucer to more modern-day herbalists, the usage of the chaste tree’s fruit and leaves to decrease libido has been widely documented across European cultures. Given the complex chemical mechanisms involved – which are only now beginning to be understood – the plant can be both a mild aphrodisiac and anaphrodisiac, with effects on both men’s and women’s hormones.
More recently, due to its hormone-influencing abilities, the plant has proven to be useful in the treatment of PMS and other hormone-related maladies for women.
WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
Between West 22nd and West 23rd Streets