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Marcus, Joseph A.
Ptelea trifoliata L.
Wafer ash, Common hoptree, Hop tree
USDA Symbol: PTTR
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
Aromatic shrub or small tree with a rounded crown. The trunk is slender and crooked, bearing interwoven, ascending branches. Bark, crushed foliage, and twigs have a slightly lemonlike, unpleasant musky odor. Trifoliate, deciduous leaves with leaflets on a petiole up to 2 inches long, the terminal leaflet up to 2 1/2 inches long, obovate, tapering more gradually to the base than to the tip, midrib of lateral leaflets off center. Leaves are dark-green in summer, turning yellow in fall. Flowers small, greenish white, in clusters among the leaves, appearing in April. Fruit distinctive, waferlike samara with broad wings, approximately 7/8 inch long by 3/4 inch wide.
This widespread species includes many varieties with leaflets of differing sizes and shapes. The common name refers to a reported use in earlier days of the bitter fruit as a substitute for hops in brewing beer. The bitter bark of the root, like other aromatic barks, has been used for home remedies. The northernmost New World representative of the Rue (Citrus) family.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf Retention: Deciduous Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Complexity: Trifoliate Size Notes:
Green Autumn Foliage:
Green Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr
, WV Canada: ON
, QC Native Distribution:
to c. MI,
& s.e. KS,
s. to FL
& TX; introduced in n. Midwest states & New England Native Habitat:
Alluvial thickets; rocky slopes; gravelly places
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
Low , Medium , High Light Requirement:
Sun , Part Shade , Shade Soil Moisture:
Dry , Moist , Wet Soil pH:
Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2) CaCO3 Tolerance:
Medium Soil Description:
Moist to dry, well-drained loams. Sandy, Medium Loam Sandy Loam, Clay Loam Clay, Limestone-based, Acid-based, Calcareous. Conditions Comments:
It is an attractive, tall shrub
or small understory tree,
for both moist conditions and dry rocky sites. If grown in full sun and cut back, wafer ash will be quite bushy. Sweet nectar
of this plant attracts many species of butterflies. All parts are aromatic. Prefers moist soil such as a watered garden or seep area.
Fruits ornamental, Blooms ornamental, Accent tree
Aromatic Use Wildlife:
Provides food and shelter for birds and mammals. Nectar-butterflies Use Other:
The fruits have been used in beer as a substitute for hops, hence the name hop-tree. (Kershaw) Conspicuous Flowers:
Birds , Butterflies Larval Host:
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Giant Swallowtail Nectar Source:
PropagationPropagation Material: Seeds
Description: Sow seeds directly outdoors after collection or store and stratify seeds. Softwood and semi-hardwood cuttings taken in mid-summer to late fall will root.
Seed Collection: Harvest samaras in late summer and early fall as soon and they turn light yellow-brown. Store in sealed, refrigerated containers. (Wings may be left on.)
Seed Treatment: Stratify 3 months at 41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Non-toxic shade trees for horses in Florida
April 01, 2009
Looking for non poisonous shade trees for pasture with horses. Would prefer flowering or something that changes color. Thank you.
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Variety of native tall plants for a screen in shady area near Ft. Worth
June 12, 2007
Hello, we live west of Ft Worth. We are looking for tall plants to form a visual screen along a chain link fence we share with a neighbor. We have post oaks there and it is very shady and the ground ...
view the full question and answer
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
From the National Suppliers Directory
According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
American Native Nursery
- Quakertown, PAHill Country Natives
- Leander, TX
Herbarium Specimen(s)NPSOT 1134
Collected May 13, 1991 in Bexar County by Elizabeth W. HughesNPSOT 0648
Collected Jun 6, 1992 in Medina County by Harry CliffeNPSOT 0093
Collected April 9, 1987 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe
Record Last Modified: 2009-04-23
Research By: NPC