Monday, July 24, 2006

Chaste tree - Deep Cut Gardens

One day last week I visited a horticultural park nearby to photograph flowers and butterflies. I've spent many hours volunteering in this park as part of my master gardener hours, but haven't really experienced it the way a first-time visitor would. I know many of the nooks and crannies, and where all the nastiest weeds grow, but to wander around with my camera and a few spare hours was a treat. The gardens are pretty diverse and my interest is mostly in the wildest parts of the park where the hands of the horticultural staff or the master gardeners haven't much reached yet. Blogger has fits if I try to load more than two or three photos per post, so I'll share some of the nicer pics from the different gardens on an occasional basis.

I had to call and ask the staff about the shrub in the above photo. From far away it looked like a humungous butterfly bush, but I knew better. The shape of the flowers was similar to a butterfly bush also, but they were formed more like those of a lilac. I got my answer today - it's a Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) - a non-native, but from what I've read seems to be popular in the south and in arid regions of the country. I'd be interested to hear more about it from anyone that is familiar with it. The flowers were covered with bees and small butterflies, I walked round and round a few times to get a look at all the insects that were feeding on it.

I'm awful with skippers, but my handy-dandy naturalist friend says this is probably a Peck's Skipper.

He suggested these might be Delaware or European Skippers. I don't have a clue!

I thought this might be a sootywing, but he says it's a duskywing, either Wild Indigo or Horace's.

6 comments:

Pam in Tucson said...

What a wonderful place to wander around in. Love your butterfly pics. I didn't know you were a master gardener, but probably should have realized it from the fab. photos you've posted of your own garden.

Laura said...

Question for all you gardeners..I was talking to my brother last night, he lives in Old Bridge. He has a small veggie garden, fenced. He did find a baby bunny in there, having salad - and fixed the hole. Then he said something was still eating his tomatoes. Turns out, it was a gray squirrel. I didn't realize gray squirrels liked tomatoes! Anyone else have squirrels invading gardens? No doubt on this, the squirrel was sitting up, holding the tomato like a walnut, and feasting. If he knew my brother better, he'd think again about it - could end up as squirrel stew!

madcapmum said...

The name "Chaste Tree" has me intrigued. I think I'm going to have to do some internet research on that.

Sandy said...

What a beautiful bush. I can see why the butterflies and moths would visit there. It looks to be quite large. Now I need to go see if I can find a listing for one, locally.

It is so nice to hear about your dog. Aren't they just the best company?

bev said...

The skipper IDs seem about right to me. I knew of the Chaste Tree from herbal medicine, but had no idea that it looked like that. Really looks quite beautiful. For Laura who asked about squirrels eating tomatoes a couple of comments above - yes, we've had trouble with Red squirrels eating tomatoes. I've often found young squirrels sitting in the middle of a tomato that they had eaten the side out out. They would be covered with juice and seeds, so no doubt about what they were up to!

LauraHinNJ said...

Madcapmum and Bev: I read a little about the folklore of this plant - think it is also known as Monk's Pepper, somehow it was thought to ensure chastity, hence the name.