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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Singing the Praises of Vitex and an Unusual Night Visitor

 I was sitting on the patio, drinking my morning coffee on Saturday and noticed lots of movement around the Vitex.  As I looked closer, there were at least five Monarchs nectaring on the remaining Vitex blooms.

Of course, I couldn't get them all in one photo, but if you click on this photo to see it full size, you can see two Monarchs in it.

 It's funny to think that I'd never even heard of Vitex before I walked in to Southlands Nursery on FM 2920 outside of Tomball, Texas (Now From Rocks to Roses ) and asked for suggestions for shrubs that would attract wildlife such as butterflies.  

The lady there suggested a Vitex, also known as Chaste Tree, Lilac Chaste Tree and Monk's Pepper.

I thought it a bargain at $15 as it was in a large container and they had to hack it back quite severely so I could get it in my car. I was a little concerned about that but they assured me it would be fine and sure enough it took off like gangbusters. 

It's in its third year here and is now 15 ft tall and has been blooming on and off all summer.

Butterflies love it, hummingbirds love it.  *I* love it!

Speaking of butterflies, my husband and I were enjoying a glass of wine on the patio late on Saturday evening when suddenly something, we presumed a moth, started flapping around in the ceiling fans up by the lights.

We realized quickly it wasn't a moth, but a Monarch, although I didn't think they would still be flying around after dark.  It was flying erratically, obviously confused by the lights and I think it got hit by the ceiling fan at one point.

After a few minutes it landed at my feet and just sat there.  I was able to gently grasp it's wings and walked it out in to the garden away from the lights and let it go. However, within minutes it was back, flutttering erratically up by the fan again.

We decided, at that point, to go indoors and turn the patio lights and fans off. As we did, it landed on the window screen and I took a picture before going indoors.

I was late getting up Sunday morning, but I was dismayed when I peeked through the blinds mid morning and saw it was still there, in exactly the same position.  I felt sure it had died and was just sort of stuck to the screen.

 I opened the back door and was about to reach for it, not exactly sure what I planned to do with it, when to my amazement it fluttered its wings and flew away.  I watched and noted it seemed a little unsteady, but perhaps it was just a bit too breezy, but it eventually headed to the Vitex and took some much needed nourishment.

Who know, perhaps this is the same butterfly, photographed later that day on one of the few milkweed plants that hasn't already burst its seedpods all over.

Wonder if we'll ever see caterpillars this year?

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.


Bernie said...

Well it seems you're not the only one who loves the Vitex. Maybe that Monarch was hanging around trying to say thanks so much for the gift of nectar in your garden, lol! Lovely photos and the Vitex flowers are just gorgeous.

Jayne said...

Thanks Bernie - maybe you're right, lol!

Lancashire rose said...

I like vitex too, despite its invasive nature. I like the smell and the blooms. I am told it should be cut to the ground every year, which was too late for some of my trees. One I trained as a true tree and would never cut that but the others I now cut and they make a more bushy shrub. Glad you and the monarch are enjoying the pretty purple blooms.

Kathleen Scott said...

There is time for egg-laying, caterpillar, chrysallis and hatching if freezes hold off until early-mid December.

In some climates the pupa overwinters and hatches in spring so be careful of taking down dead milkweed stalks this winter.

leavesnbloom said...

I've never heard of Vitax but it certainly is popular with the butterflies looks as is it's a great nectar source for late in the season.

Corner Gardener Sue said...

Hi Jane,
I enjoyed your photos. I've seen vitex on other blogs. It doesn't grow in Nebraska, or I'd give it a try.

I hope your monarch was OK. What strange behavior it had!