Ajuntament de Barcelona

Vitex agnus-castus

Miramar Garden and Camí dels Cims

    Catalan name: 
    Aloc
    Spanish name: 
    Sauzgatillo
    English name: 
    Chasteberry
    Botanical synonyms: 
    Agnus-castus robusta, Agnus-castus vulgaris
    Observations: 

    According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the conservation status of this plant is least concern.

    Species characteristics
    Family: 
    Verbenaceae
    Origin: 
    Mediterranean coast
    Habitat: 
    Seasonal stream banks, fast-flowing stream mouths and watercourses in silicic seaboard
    Characteristics: 

    Deciduous shrub 1-3 m tall, although it can reach 5 m, with abundant wickery branches, which are quadrangular and tomentose (covered by down). The bark is whitish.

    The leaves are compound, opposite and palmately lobed, with a very long petiole. The 5-7 entire lanceolate leaflets are covered by white tomentum on the lower side.

    The tiny fragrant flowers appear into long narrow spikes. The bell-shaped calyx is tomentose and is composed by 5 triangular sepals that are three times shorter than the tube. The purplish blue or pink corolla is almost bilabiate, with a not very prominent tube, a bilobated top labium, a bottom one with 3 lobes and a bigger middle one.

    The fruits are small edible globose drupes. Their colour varies from very dark red to black.

    Flowering time: 
    Summer
    Fruiting time: 
    Autumn
    Uses and properties: 

    Chasteberry is a local plant very used in gardening because of its resilience and beauty.

    It was used in agriculture as turf to consolidate the field as well as to ellaborate wicker baskets and as a repellent for cattle lice.

    Its fruit, slightly bitter and hot (hence why it is also known as a peppercorn), is used in the ellaboration of dishes as a condiment.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name, Vitex agnus-castus, consists of the genus name Vitex, coming from the Latin viere, “to join, to weave”, in allusion to the stems of some of the species resembling ropes, and the term agnus-castus, formed by the Greek ἀγνόs, “chaste, pure”, and the Latin castus, “chaste”, alluding redundantly to the anaphrodisiac properties which were attibuted to it.

    During the Middle Ages it was believed that the chasteberry decreased the sexual desire, therefore it was used at the monasteries as a medicine to help the monks suppressing the sexual desire.

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001