Saturday, June 13, 2009

Vitex in Bloom

The Vitex, or chaste tree, is in bloom with its long, upright clusters of light blue flowers. This large shrub or small tree is a favorite for landscape plantings throughout the South. Like the honeybee, Vitex was brought to America by the colonists. Vitex is especially appreciated by beekeepers and those who want to attract insect pollinators. Vitex is very attractive to a number of species of bees and native insect pollinators, and it blooms over a long period of time. During the summer months, Vitex is one of the few plants available in some areas during times of dearth when other plants are not producing nectar.

I met Karen and Steve Cantor while I was snapping pictures of their Vitex tree in the lawn of their Midtown Memphis home. Click on the picture, and you can see a honeybee collecting nectar from the delicate flowers of the Vitex. At the time, the tree was being worked heavily by carpenter bees. They are the large bees that look like bumblebees, except they have a shiny black abdomen. A few honeybees and solitary bees were also foraging on the Vitex as well. Their lawn was in bloom with a number of flowering plants. The Cantors are true stewards of the environment. They also plant a number of different varieties of sunflowers. Such plantings provide a continuous supply of food and habitat for the pollinators as well as diversity of pollens for good nutrition for the developing bees. We talked briefly; the Cantors are quite knowledgeable of our impact on the environment. I had a few supers of honey that I had just harvested from our bees at the Memphis Botanic Garden, so we shared a taste of some light and flavorful spring honey. I thank the Cantors for using their landscaping efforts to create a beautiful lawn and a feeding area for the bees.


  1. Dear Mr. Underhill,

    I am living in South Korea.
    My grandfather keeps bees, and so I planted about 100 trees of Vitex (chaste trees) for him at the distance of only 20 meters away from the beehive box. They blooms very well, and scent good. But there are no bees on vitex and only butterflies are on them very busy. Do you know why?
    How many trees do I must have for a beehive box?
    Maybe the species of the chaste trees must be negundo.
    Is there any species of bees not good for the specific vitex?
    Maybe you can see the trees and some big insect that likes the vitex very much.

    1. Honey bees choose to forage from plants that provide the maximum amount of nectar of the greatest concentration of sugars. Vitex is a good nectar source, but beekeepers are often surprised to find plenty of flowers in bloom but no honey bees present. When this occurs on days when conditions are favorable for bees to fly, we can assume that the bees are foraging nectar from other plants with greater concentrations of sugars. The bees will even fly past weak nectar sources to forage stronger sources.

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  2. there is a posting saying the same problem.