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.
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.
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.
Robin Roecker, President
S.C. Exotic Pest Plant Council
University of South Carolina
Baruch Institute-Marine/Coastal Science
Clemson University-Baruch Institute
Coastal Ecology & Forest Science
U.S. Geological Survey
Biological Resources Discipline
Betsy Brabson, Coordinator
SC Beach Vitex Task Force