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Hop Tree

Ptelea trifoliata

Details & Attributes


Plant Type(s) Tree, shrub, perennial
Native to Arizona Yes!
Water Needs Moderate-high
Sun Partial shade
Pollinators Carrion flies!
Has Spines No
Size
In relative feet, width by height
6-20' × 6-20'
Freeze Tolerant No
Flowering Season May-June
Flower Color Greenish/white
Minimum Temperature Range -30 °F
Leaf Description Trifoliate, very fragrant
Fruit Disk shaped samara (papery winged fruit).
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Range Map View SEINet Range Map
Elevation Range 3500-9000 ft.
Ethnobotany Root used as a seasoning and as a sacred medicine that holds many cures and that makes other medicines potent; leaves were used externally for stomachaches.
Description Hop tree is a species found throughout much of Mexico as well as the southwestern and eastern United States, setting it apart from the mostly western affiliated Arizona flora. This distinctive large shrub or small tree has thin, sometimes leggy branches covered in deciduous (drops leaves in winter), trioliate (groups of 3) leaves, topped with clusters of greenish/white flowers followed by papery disks containing individual seeds. In Arizona this species is typically found on shaded slopes near drainages, streams, or cienegas alongside other moisture loving species such as Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina), soapberry (Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii), and seep willow (Baccharis salicifolia). A sure way to identify this species is to rub the leaves which release a smell described variously as citrusy, skunky, or cannabis-like. This plant lends itself to planting as an understory shrub in or around a reliably watered basin, particularly in cooler parts of Arizona.