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Invasive Species – Beach Vitex

The Plant

  • Beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia)
  • Native to the Pacific rim of Asia. From Korea to Australia including Japan, China, Southeast Asia, the Malaysian peninsula, and including Hawaii.
  • Prefers sandy soils above high tide line, open sun, and does well in rocky areas. Has high tolerance for heat and salt spray. It could be found across the entire Gulf coast and as far north as Rhode Island along the Atlantic seaboard.
  • Perennial shrub that can reach 2’ tall. Possesses main taproot and above ground woody rhizomes that can reach 60’ in length.
  • Opposite leaves, oval in shape, 1-2” long. They feel smooth to the touch. Leaves are a bluish-green color but become tannish-white in fall. May lose leaves in winter.
  • Flowers are violet and, though typically flowers in late spring and early summer, can flower year round.
  • Fruit are spherical and grayish-purple in color. 0.25” in diameter and appear in late summer and fall. They can tolerate high saline water and disperse by wildlife or currents.
  • First brought to U.S. in 1955 as an ornamental in non-public nurseries.
  • First used as post-hurricane dune restoration plant in 1989 in South Carolina

 

Beach vitex is an aggresively growing vine that can extend over sidewalks. Photo: Rick O’Connor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Issue

  • Displaces native plants such as sea oats.
  • Dense patches prevent no more than 5% of the sunlight from reaching soil surface inhibiting seed germination of native plants and can release allopathic compounds which develop drought like conditions for nearby plants.
  • Dense seed banks and can spread very quickly, particularly in the warmer months.
  • Some are concerned it could affect protected species such as Sea Beach Amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus) and the nesting behavior of sea turtles.
  • Not consumed by deer or other native coastal herbivores.
  • Having a taproot verses a fibrous root system; it has not been very effective in stabilizing dunes.
  • The states of North and South Carolina have formed a task force to deal with the plant.
  • In Florida listed by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council and the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants as a Category I plant – “invasive – not recommended”.

 

Solutions

  • If seeds are present, remove using small hand clippers and collect in buckets. Allow to desiccate in bucket before disposing of.
  • Cut sections of rhizomes back to the main taproot. Cuttings should be placed on pavement and allowed to dry before disposal; or they can be burned. Cuttings should be double bagged if being removed from area.
  • If taproot can be removed, do so. If not cut diagonally and spot-spray with glyphosate.
  • Replant area with native dune grasses and check area for 2-5 years to make sure it does not return.
  • If property owner is not interested in removing, asked if they will prune plants and remove seed when they appear. They can disposed of as described above.

Contact in Escambia County Florida

Rick O’Connor   (850) 475-5230                  roc1@ufl.edu

Beach vitex

Beach vitex has over grown this yard on Pensacola Beach. Photo: Rick O’Connor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/marine/2017/03/20/invasive-species-beach-vitex/