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Vitex altissima

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Kingdom Plantae
Order Lamiales
Family Verbenaceae
Species in this genus
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Vitex is a genus of flowering plants in the family Verbenaceae. <ref name="apweblamiaceaelist"> List of Genera in Lamiaceae. At: Peter F. Stevens. 2001 onwards. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website At: Missouri Botanical Garden Website. (see External links below). </ref> It has about 250 species. <ref name="harley2004"> Raymond M. Harley, Sandy Atkins, Andrey L. Budantsev, Philip D. Cantino, Barry J. Conn, Renée J. Grayer, Madeline M. Harley, Rogier P.J. de Kok, Tatyana V. Krestovskaja, Ramón Morales, Alan J. Paton, and P. Olof Ryding. 2004. "Labiatae" pages 167-275. In: Klaus Kubitzki (editor) and Joachim W. Kadereit (volume editor). The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants volume VII. Springer-Verlag: Berlin; Heidelberg, Germany. ISBN 978-3-540-40593-1 </ref> Its type species is Vitex agnus-castus.<ref name="ingvitex"> Vitex In: Index Nominum Genericorum. In: Regnum Vegetabile (see External links below). </ref> There is no universal English name, though "chastetree" (commonly referring to V. agnus-castus specifically) is common for many species. Generally, they are simply called vitex ()<ref></ref> however.

Species of Vitex are native throughout the tropics and subtropics, with a few species in temperate Eurasia. <ref name="mabberley2008"> David J. Mabberley. 2008. Mabberley's Plant-Book third edition (2008). Cambridge University Press: UK.</ref> Vitex is a genus of shrubs and trees, from 1 to 35m tall.

About 18 species are known in cultivation. Vitex agnus-castus and Vitex negundo are often grown in temperate climates. <ref name=rhs> Anthony J. Huxley, Mark Griffiths, and Margot Levy (editors). 1992. The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening. The Macmillan Press Limited, London; The Stockton Press, New York. </ref> About six others are frequently grown in the tropics. <ref name="staples2005"> George W. Staples and Derral R. Herbst "A Tropical Garden Flora" Bishop Museum Press: Honolulu (2005) </ref> Most of the cultivated species serve as ornamentals. Some provide valuable lumber. The flexible limbs of some species are used in basket weaving. <ref name="mabberley2008"/> Some of the aromatic species are used medicinally or to repel mosquitos. <ref name="staples2005"/>

The genus Vitex was named by Linnaeus in Species Plantarum in 1753. <ref name="linnaeus1753"> Carolus Linnaeus. 1753. Species Plantarum 2:706. Laurentii Salvii. (see External Links below). </ref> Vitex was the name used by Pliny the Elder for Vitex agnus-castus. It is derived from the Latin vieo, meaning to weave or to tie up, a reference to the use of Vitex agnus-castus in basketry. <ref name="quattrocchi2000"> Umberto Quattrocchi. 2000. CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names volume I, page 91. CRC Press: Boca Raton; New York; Washington,DC;, USA. London, UK. ISBN 978-0-8493-2673-8 (set). (see External links below). </ref>

Vitex is one of several genera that was transferred from Verbenaceae to Lamiaceae in the 1990s as a result of phylogenetic studies of DNA sequences. It is the largest genus in the subfamily Viticoideae of Lamiaceae. <ref name="harley2004"/> Taxon sampling in molecular phylogenetic studies has never been sufficient to test the monophyly of Viticoideae, but it is generally thought to be an unnatural group. <ref name="unauthored"> Systematics of Lamiaceae Subfamily Viticoideae. At: Website of Kew Gardens. (see External links below). </ref> The subfamily is probably diphyletic, with Premna, Gmelina, and Cornutia constituting one clade, and with Vitex, Petitia, Pseudocarpidium, and Teijsmanniodendron constituting the other. <ref name="bramley2009"> Gemma L.C. Bramley, Félix Forest, and Rogier P.J. de Kok. 2009. "Troublesome tropical mints: re-examining generic limits of Vitex and relations (Lamiaceae) in South East Asia". Taxon 58(2):500-510. </ref>


In 2009, a molecular phylogenetic study showed that three small genera, Paravitex, Viticipremna, and Tsoongia are embedded in Vitex. These three genera were duly sunk into synomymy with Vitex. <ref name="bramley2009"/>

It is possible that Pseudocarpidium, Petitia, and Teijsmanniodendron are nested within Vitex. Sampling in the 2009 study was not sufficient to determine the phylogenetic position of these genera. The relationships of Teijsmanniodendron to these genera was not discussed in a revision of Teijsmanniodendron in 2009. <ref name="dekok2009"> Rogier P.J. de Kok, Go Rusea, and Abdul Latiff. 2009. "The Genus Teijsmanniodendron Koord. (Lamiaceae)". Kew Bulletin 64(4):587-625. </ref>

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