Vitex parviflora Juss. is the scientific name of the small-flower chaste tree, also called the molave or tugas tree. The name was authored by Antoine Laurent de Jussieu (1748-1836), a French botanist, hence the Juss. after the scientific name. One of its synonyms, Vitex littoralis, was authored by another French botanist, Joseph Decaisne (1807-82), abbreviated Decne.
The molave or V. parviflora belongs to the Verbena family or Verbenaceae, order Lamiales, group Asterids of the Eudicots, under phylum Angiospermae (also called Magnoliophyta or Anthophyta) of the kingdom Plantae (Simpson 2010). The family is also called the Molave family (Merrill 1912). Verbena is a Latin word referring to plants with clusters of flowers of various colors. Branches of these plants were worn by heralds and priests as a sacred symbol (Traupman 1995).
The taxonomic family Verbenaceae includes herbs, vines, shrubs, and trees, mostly tropical. Aside from Verbena and Vitex, some other important genera under this family are the following:
Aloysia, Avicennia, Callicarpa, Clerodendron, Congea, Cytharoxylum, Duranta (ex. D. repens), Gmelina (ex. G. elliptica Sm. [dadiangas, talungon]), Holmskioldea, Lantana (ex. L. camara), Lippia, Petraea, Premna, Stachytarpheta, Symphorema, and Tectona (ex. T. grandis or teak) (Merrill 1912; Steiner 1986; Simpson 2010).
E.D. Merrill, in his book Flora of Manila published in 1912, described the molave tree (Vitex parviflora Juss.) which flowered from May to October. He also described two lagundi shrubs which are close relatives of molave, the Vitex negundo L. and the Vitex trifolia L. Here’s Merrill’s entry on page 404 of the book:1. V. parviflora Juss. (V. littoralis Dene.). Molauin, Molave Tag.).
But Vitex parviflora can grow much larger than Merrill (1912) described. According to WAC (2013), molave is a medium to large tree with butresses, capable of growing to a height of 30-38 m with bole diameter up to 125-200 cm and branches up to 20 m. Its bark is smooth, or nearly so. It usually has a spreading crown.
are palmately compound with 3 leaflets (trifoliate), petioled. Leaflets are
ovate to lanceolate 7 to 18 cm long with pointed tip, shining and quite smooth
(stuartxchange .com 2012). Flowers
are perfect or bisexual having both
pistil (carpel) and stamen in the same flower structure. The fruit is a drupe,
bluish-black when mature with 1-4 seeds. The seeds are obovoid to oblong
without endosperm. There are about 10,000-18,000 seeds per kilogram. Accordingly,
Vitex parviflora is native to the
Philippines, Sulawesi, Timor, and the Moluccas (WAC 2013).
appears, however, that the leaves are not entirely compound, particularly in
seedlings of the common strain locally called tugas babae (see photo of seedlings). Similarly, according to ERDB
(2008), the leaves are mostly single and generally opposite or whorled.
tree can grow in any soil but prefers dry limestone soils. It grows from sea
level to about 600 masl in clayey to sandy loam soils and needs plenty of sun
(ERDB 2008). It is adapted to rainfall below 400 mm annually (Fernandez 1993). Late
in the dry season, it undergoes partial or total defoliation (leaf shedding) (WAC
planted molave trees start flowering in 5-6 years after planting. Fruits ripen
after a few months from pollination. Seed germination starts 10-40 days after
sowing. In the Philippines, it is generally planted using bare-root seedlings
with planting distance of 2 m x 2 m. A plantation yielded 76 cubic meters
(equivalent to 2,683.91 cubic feet) per hectare after 20 years. Annual growth
increment of 0.4-1 m in height and 0.7-1 cm in diameter was reported (WAC 2013).
(Ben G. Bareja Aug. 2013)
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