WAFER ASH - PTELEA TRIFOLIATA

Common Name: wafer ash, hop tree

Scientific Name: 
Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Ptelea
Species: trifoliata

Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 15 to 20 ft
Width: 15 to 20 ft

Common characteristics:

Wafer ash, also called hop tree, is a large shrub or small tree that is successful in both urban and forested environments. The tree is considered very attractive because it is small, attracts pollinators, has shiny leaves, and produces seeds that look like a cross between hops and an elm seed. 

Hop trees have leaves that resemble those of ash trees but have only three parts, resembling a large shamrock leaf (each of the three parts being 2-5”) with pointed tips. The tree’s buds are hidden in the base of the leaf petiole (stem that attaches the leaf to the branch). Wafer ash bark is dark gray and mostly smooth, while the twigs are reddish-brown and very smooth. The flowers are greenish-white, about ½” in diameter, and grow in clusters. The tree will then produce circular papery brown seeds that stay on the tree even after the leaves fall off for winter. 

Where it grows:

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade but will tolerate full sun. Adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions.

How it’s used:

Can be grown as a tree or shrub. Effective as a large, informal hedge or screen. Despite the name, this tree is not an ash tree and is unaffected by the emerald ash borer.  

Ecosystem services:

The wafer ash seed is sometimes used in place of hops in beer production because of its bitter taste. The bitterness also means the wafer ash is rarely fed upon by deer. The flowers give off a citrusy smell that attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Where it is native to:

Native to eastern and central United States and into Minnesota. 

Problems:

Leaf spots and some rust but nothing serious

References:

The Morton Arboretum (Trees & Plants) found online: https://www.mortonarb.org/trees-plants/tree-plant-descriptions/wafer-ash

Missouri Botanical Garden (Plant Finder)found online: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=286752&isprofile=1&basic=Ptelea%20trifoliata

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