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Hoptree Ptelea trifoliata

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
TEE-lee-ah try-foh-lee-AY-tuh
Description

Hoptree is a deciduous small tree or large shrub in the Rutaceae (citrus) family native to North Carolina. It can be found growing in areas with especially calcareous soils including rocky bluffs, open woodlands, and river bluffs in the Coastal Plain.  The genus name Ptelea is derived from the Greek word for an elm tree, in reference to the flattened winged fruit that resembles that of elms.  The species trifoliata is in reference to the three parted leaf.  The common name hoptree is because the flat round fruits can be used as a substitute for hops in the brewing process and stinking ash comes from the malodorous fragrance of the flowers as well as bruised leaves and stems.

This very adaptable low maintenance plant should be sited in a location with full to partial shade, though it tolerates full sun, and moist well drained soil.  It is a slow to medium grower reaching 10 to 20 feet tall and wide with a bushy rounded habit that have branches low on the trunk. In the fall the three parted leaves turn a yellow green color.  

Use as a specimen or plant in small groups in an informal hedge or screen.  Its ablity to withstand shade makes it a good choice for an understory planting. The thin papery fruits hang on even through winter providing a food source for birds and small mammals as well as some winter interest to the landscape.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No serious problems.  Occasional issues with leaf spot.

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Aurea'
  • 'Glauca'
'Aurea', 'Glauca'
Tags:
#fragrant#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#full sun tolerant#fragrant flowers#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#specimen#native tree#green flowers#yellow flowers#deciduous shrub#piedmont#native shrub#woody#low maintenance#spring flowers#winter interest#swallowtail butterflies#understory tree#flowering tree#showy fruits#hedges#moist soil#food source wildlife#NC native#well-drained soil#large shrub#summer flowers#woody shrub#flowering shrub#small and large mammals#native garden#mountains#colonies#green fruits#summer interest#rock garden#spring interest#screening#flowers late spring#larval host plant#fruits summer#food source summer#deciduous tree#flowers early summer#layering#food source herbage#Piedmont Mountains FAC#small group plantings#sandy soils tolerant#rocky soils tolerant#bird friendly#dry soils tolerant#food source hard mast fruit#butterfly friendly#malodorous#Coastal FACU#partial shade tolerant#Audubon#coastal plant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Aurea'
  • 'Glauca'
'Aurea', 'Glauca'
Tags:
#fragrant#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#full sun tolerant#fragrant flowers#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#specimen#native tree#green flowers#yellow flowers#deciduous shrub#piedmont#native shrub#woody#low maintenance#spring flowers#winter interest#swallowtail butterflies#understory tree#flowering tree#showy fruits#hedges#moist soil#food source wildlife#NC native#well-drained soil#large shrub#summer flowers#woody shrub#flowering shrub#small and large mammals#native garden#mountains#colonies#green fruits#summer interest#rock garden#spring interest#screening#flowers late spring#larval host plant#fruits summer#food source summer#deciduous tree#flowers early summer#layering#food source herbage#Piedmont Mountains FAC#small group plantings#sandy soils tolerant#rocky soils tolerant#bird friendly#dry soils tolerant#food source hard mast fruit#butterfly friendly#malodorous#Coastal FACU#partial shade tolerant#Audubon#coastal plant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ptelea
    Species:
    trifoliata
    Family:
    Rutaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The seeds have historically been used as a hops substitute and the roots medicinally.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Layering
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South East Canada to Central & Eastern U.S.A
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds and small mammals enjoy the fruits as a food source. Host plant to the larva of giant swallowtail butterfly (Papilio cresphontes). Though not common in NC, these caterpillars resemble bird droppings. Carrion flies pollinate the flowers.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Samara
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Interesting fruits found in pedulous clusters that resemble hops, circular 1" wide with a thin paper wing with reticulated veins all the way around and a cordate at the base. Each samara contains 2-3 seeds. In North Carolina, the fruits start out pale green and mature to tan and are appear in June, persisting through winter and providing interest.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Mostly a dioecious plant with a few perfect flowers. Small 1/4" inches across, greenish-white to greenish-yellow 4 to 5 petaled flowers unpleasantly fragrant flowers. In North Carolina, the flowers are appear from April to June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Leaf Margin:
    Crenate
    Denticulate
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    2.5" to 4" inch long and 1"-2" across elliptical leaflets, alternate, entire to slightly toothed or wavy, trifoliate dark green glossy mostly hairless leaf with 2"-6" long petioles; yellow green fall color, malodorous when crushed
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Bumpy
    Lenticels
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Older bark is gray and rough with lenticles, young bark is smooth and gray-brown
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Angular
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Stems are terete, usually hairless and pungent
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Small groups
    Small Tree
    Specimen
    Understory Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Heat
    Problems:
    Malodorous