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Publication #ENH-688

Ptelea trifoliata: Common Hoptree1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

This deciduous North American native tree reaches about 15 feet in height with a spread of 10 to 15 feet and forms a broad, rounded canopy over a slender, grey trunk. The trifoliate, four to six-inch-long leaves are shiny and dark green on top, pale and hairy below, turning yellow in fall before dropping. Inconspicuous greenish-white flowers appear in terminal clusters in June and July, their presence easily detected by the delicious orange blossom-like perfume. The blooms are followed by interesting, one-inch-diameter, flattened, tan "wafers" which will persist on the tree if not first consumed by wildlife. In the past, this bitter fruit was used as a substitute for hops in brewing beer.

Figure 1. 

Middle-aged Ptelea trifoliata: Common Hoptree


Credit:

Ed Gilman


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Ptelea trifoliata
Pronunciation: TEE-lee-uh try-fole-ee-AY-tuh
Common name(s): Common Hoptree, Wafer-Ash
Family: Rutaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 4A through 9A (Fig. 2)
Origin: native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: specimen; deck or patio; container or planter
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. 

Range


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Description

Height: 5 to 15 feet
Spread: 10 to 15 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: round, vase
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: medium

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: trifoliate, odd-pinnately compound
Leaf margin: entire, serrate
Leaf shape: elliptic (oval), obovate, ovate
Leaf venation: brachidodrome, pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: yellow
Fall characteristic: showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: white/cream/gray
Flower characteristics: not showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: .5 to 1 inch
Fruit covering: dry or hard
Fruit color: brown
Fruit characteristics: attracts squirrels/mammals; showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: brown
Current year twig thickness: medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade, shade tolerant
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; slightly alkaline; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: unknown

Other

Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: yes
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

One of a few small trees which performs well in deep shade. Plant it close to the patio or deck, or locate it in a shrub border for fragrant flowers and yellow fall color display. Its native habitat is dry, rocky upland sites making it well-suited for unirrigated landscapes.

Naturally found in the shade along the edges of woods, especially on rocky slopes in the Mississippi Valley, Wafer-Ash can be planted in full sun to deep shade and prefers well-drained, fertile, moist soil. While plants are better off if not exposed to extremes of wetness or dryness, Wafer-Ash is drought-tolerant once established. It transplants readily from the field.

Cultivars include: `Aurea', new leaves bright yellow fading to pale green; and `Glauca', blue/green foliage.

Propagation is by seed, budding, layering, or grafting.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern although it is occasionally bothered by tree-hoppers, leaf spot, and rust. Tree hoppers can discolor the foliage and cause premature defoliation.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH-688, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, F/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, F/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL, 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.