Common Hoptree

Common Hoptree Plant Information


Common Hoptree grows in the following 40 states:

Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, District Of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia

Ptelea trifoliata, the common hoptree,stinking ash or wafer ash, is a species of flowering plant in the Rutaceae family, native to North and Central America. It is a deciduous shrub or tree, growing to 8m (26ft) tall by 4m (13ft) wide.

Trifoliata refers to the three-parted compound leaf.
Ptelea trifoliata is the second-northernmost New World representative of the Rue (Citrus) family after American prickly-ash (Zanthoxylum americanum).
While Ptelea trifoliata is most often treated as a single species with subspecies and/or varieties in different distribution ranges, some botanists treat the various Hoptrees as a group of four or more closely related species:
Ptelea trifoliata is a small tree, or often a shrub of a few spreading stems, 6-8m (20-26ft) tall with a broad crown. The plant has thick fleshy roots, flourishes in rich, rather moist soil. In the Mississippi embayment (Mississippi River Valley) it is found most frequently on rocky slopes as part of the undergrowth. Its juices are acrid and bitter and the bark possesses tonic properties.
The twigs are slender to moderately stout, brown with deep U-shaped leaf scars, and with short, light brown, fuzzy buds. The leaves are alternate, 5-18cm long, palmately compound with three (rarely five) leaflets, each leaflet 1-10cm long, sparsely serrated or entire, shiny dark green above, paler below. The western and southwestern forms have smaller leaves (5-11cm) than the eastern forms (10-18cm), an adaptation to the drier climates there.
The flowers are small, 1-2cm across, with 4-5 narrow, greenish white petals, produced in terminal, branched clusters in spring: some find the odor unpleasant but to others trifoliata has a delicious scent. The fruit is a round wafer-like papery samara, 2-2.5cm across, light brown, maturing in summer. Seed vessel has a thin wing and is held on tree until high winds during early winter.
The bark is reddish brown to gray brown, short horizontal lenticels, warty corky ridges, becoming slightly scaly, unpleasant odor and bitter taste. It has several Native American uses as a seasoning and as an herbal medicine for different ailments.
Numerous cultivars have been developed for ornamental use in parks and gardens. The cultivar 'Aurea' with golden leaves has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
German immigrants to Texas in the 19th century used its seeds in place of hops in the beer-making process. "Early settlers, desperate for a drink, substituted the fruits for true hops in beer-making, giving rise to the current common name."

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