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Sunday, April 15, 2012


The chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is native to the Mediterranean region, while this is its close tropical relative. It is called Molave in the Philippines where it is a native. Native trees are also found in parts of Indonesia, but in other parts of the world it is believed to have been introduced. However it was listed in the IUCN Red list as Vulnerable in its native habitats in 1998 as it has been felled for its highly prized timber although there have been moves to replant trees which had been indiscriminately felled. The timber is prized in the tropics as it is termite and fungus resistant, making it valuable in the tropics.
  The tree is a medium height one which grows to between 30 and 38 metres high. It has smaller blue-lilac flowers than it Mediterranean relative, but is very attractive when in bloom and later the fruit appears, which is blue-black, and contains between one and four seeds.
  As a member of the Lamiaceae or Verbenaceae family it is also related to sage, lemon verbena, Prunella vulgaris (self-heal), Jupiter’s sage, horehound, Cretan dittany, Bugle, Peppermint, ground ivy, Scarlet Bee Balm, motherwort, wall or common germander, Fragrant Premna, the teak tree, marsh woundwort, white, purple and yellow dead nettles, Lantana camara or yellow sage and vervain, to name but a few of its relatives.
  The timber is used for a multitude of purposes including construction, houses, ship building, railway sleepers, and carving. The wood exudes a yellow resin-type substance when treated with lime and when the wood shavings are soaked in water a yellow weak dye is produced.
  The bark and wood are used in traditional systems of medicine in the Philippines and Indonesia, and in some parts of India where it is mixed with the bark of Terminalia cattapa or the Indian almond tree and used in baths for women who have just delivered a baby.
  It is used as a styptic, to heal damaged tissue in the form of a paste, and is mainly used as an emetic, to produce vomiting in cases of poisoning. For this purpose a decoction is made from the wood and the bark of the tree. The bark is also used in a decoction or infusion for diarrhoea, and in South East Asia it is used for stomach problems, anorexia, blindness, leprosy, intestinal worms and rheumatic swellings.
  The tree has now been planted in South America and other parts of the tropics in attempts to save it from extinction. The leaves are used as fodder and the timber for firewood. Hopefully this beautiful tree will be saved from the threat of extinction.

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