Aromatic shrub or small tree with a rounded crown. Trunk is slender and crooked, bearing interwoven, ascending branches. Bark, crushed foliage, and twigs have a slightly lemonlike, unpleasant (to some – I actually like it!) musky odor. Trifoliate, dark green leaves turn yellow in fall. Tiny, greenish white flowers, in clusters among the leaves, are followed by distinctive, wafer-like samara which persist on the tree for most of the winter. Despite being a member of the citrus family, the fruit is a thin papery pancake instead of juicy and plump, and was used as a replacement of hops in flavoring beer, thus the common name.
Although some sources state wafer ash is monoecious (producing male and female flowers on the same shrub), according to the University of Georgia Warnell Outreach, hop tree is usually functionally dioecious. Among all trees in an area, there is usually 1.5 more functional males than female trees.
Attracts birds, butterflies. Larval host plant for the Eastern tiger swallowtail and giant swallowtail butterflies.
Tolerates full sun. Adaptable to wide range of growing conditions. The heavier the shading, the less likely P. trifoliata will flower and fruit. Reproduces by seed and does not form clonal clumps, although it may be found in thickets in the wild.
Height: 15-20 ft.
Spread: 15-20 ft.
Bloom time: June
Sun: part shade to full shade
Water: dry to medium
photo credit; Georg Slickers