Common Name: wafer ash, hop tree
Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 15 to 20 ft
Width: 15 to 20 ft
Description: 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. In fact, 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.
Hop trees have leaves that resemble those of ash trees, but have only three parts. If that does not help you visualize the leaf, think of a really big 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. These flowers give off a citrusy smell that attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The tree will then produce circular papery brown seeds that stay on the tree even after the leaves fall off for winter.