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Beach Vitex

Beach vitex leaves are round, slilvery gray-green, 1-2 inches long, and have a spicy fragrance. The flowers are purplish-blue, 1 inch in width, and produced in small clusters at the ends of branches. The round fruits are 1/4 inch in diameter and purplish-black when ripe. The plant typically grows up to 12 feet or more in diameter, and can produce rooting runners up to 60 feet long.

Introduction to the U.S.

Beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia), is a deciduous woody vine from the Pacific Rim, that was introduced to the Southeastern U.S. in the mid-1980's for beach stabilization. By the mid-1990's, plant specialists began to notice beach vitex spreading from original plantings on state beaches, crowding out native plants such as sea oats and sea beach amaranth. It is now spreading along front beaches by seeds and vegetative fragments from parent plants.

Special Concerns

In 2003, volunteers with the South Carolina Sea Turtle Network became concerned about possible impacts of the plant on sea turtle nesting. It has the potential to be a threat to sea turtle reproduction on southeastern beaches - similar in effect to nesting habitat destruction by Australian Pine in Florida. It also forms monoculture stands that crowd out native beach plants which are efficient in dune building and stabilization. Beach vitex does not appear to trap wind blown sand, and the taproots are not effective in holding sand in place.

Tell Somebody!

If you see beach vitex in our beach communities, particularly on the front beach, try to establish its location by a street address, distance from a distinct landmark or GPS position, along with the area of coverage. Please report the information to the South Carolina Beach Vitex Task Force.

NOTE: Beach vitex seedlings on public beaches should be removed and destroyed once they are correctly identified.

With each passing season, the potential for beach vitex to crowd out native dune plants and impede sea turtle nesting will continue to grow.

South Carolina Beach Vitex Task Force Contacts:

Robin Roecker, President
S.C. Exotic Pest Plant Council
Columbia, SC

Laura Schmidt
University of South Carolina
Baruch Institute-Marine/Coastal Science
Georgetown, SC

Jack Whetstone
Clemson University-Baruch Institute
Coastal Ecology & Forest Science
Georgetown, SC

Randy Westbrooks
U.S. Geological Survey
Biological Resources Discipline
Whiteville, NC

Betsy Brabson, Coordinator
SC Beach Vitex Task Force
Debordieu Beach
Georgetown, SC