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What Is Vitex Trifolia?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2016
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Vitex trifolia is a relatively small tree found primarily in countries that border on the Pacific and Indian oceans. Due to its colorful flowers and use in traditional medicines, it is also cultivated in gardens. Leaves of the tree may be in three leaflets, hence the species name.

Growing up to a maximum of about 26 feet tall (8 m), Vitex trifolia can either be regarded as a shrub or a small variety of tree. Its bark is a gray or brown color, and the leaves are generally less than 5 inches in length (about 12 cm). One of the alternate names for the tree is "Three Leaflet Vitex," which stems from the fact that the leaves are not in one piece, but rather in three, or sometimes five, little leaflets stuck together at their bases, of which the middle leaf is the longest.

Although the top of the leaves are green, the underneath is typically much paler and covered with hairs. The entire leaf releases scent when damaged. When the tree flowers, the flowers are blue or purple in color and are shaped like a tube with five segments that has a larger diameter at the end farthest from the stalk. After the flowers, Vitex trifolia produces small, spherical fruits with a central stone that are black when fully ripened.

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The tree prefers to grow at sea level or above, and is ubiquitous in many countries. Vitex trifolia likes soil such as sand and clay, and often lives on the edge of the sea or along swamps with mangrove trees. Due to its ability to thrive in many geographical areas, many different names for the plant exist. Gendavasi, simpleleaf chastetree, and san ye man jing are some examples.

Countries along the eastern edges of the Pacific and Indian oceans, like Australia, India and parts of east Africa are home to the tree. It also grows in Afghanistan and Iran. Some people also cultivate it in other parts of the world as a garden tree. Vitex trifolia can be grown from both seeds and cuttings, but it requires good drainage, fertile soil, and does not respond well to too much or too little water. Malaysian people and Indonesians use the tree as a source of herbal medicine, specifically for women's reproductive issues, although no scientific evidence yet exists to prove whether it is beneficial or not.

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