Ptelea trifoliata

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: hop tree 
Type: Tree
Family: Rutaceae
Native Range: Eastern and central United States
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 15.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 15.00 to 20.00 feet
Bloom Time: June
Bloom Description: Greenish white
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge, Flowering Tree
Flower: Fragrant, Insignificant
Leaf: Fragrant
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


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

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ptelea trifoliata, commonly called hop tree, is a dense, rounded, Missouri native, deciduous shrub or small tree which occurs in open woods, glades, ravines, thickets and prairies. Typically grows to 10-20' tall. Features compound, trifoliate, shiny, dark green leaves (each leaflet is 2-5" long) which turn greenish yellow in autumn. Terminal clusters (cymes) of tiny white flowers appear in late spring, but are not particularly showy. Carrion flies pollinate the flowers. Flowers give way to pendulous seed clusters, each seed being encased in a thin, circular, winged disc (1" diameter samara). Seeds mature to brown in late summer and persist through most of the winter. This tree has several very descriptive common names: (a) hop tree (in reference to a prior use of the seeds as a substitute for hops), (b) wafer ash (in reference to the thin, wafer-like appearance of the seed and (c) stinking ash (in reference to the unpleasant smell of not only the flowers but also bruised foliage and bark).

Genus name comes from the Greek name ptelea for an elm tree for its flattened, almost circular fruit which have a wing all around like that of an elm.

Specific epithet means with three leaves or leaflets.


No serious insect or disease problems. Some susceptibility to leaf spots.


Tree or shrub. Specimen or groups. Effective as a large, informal hedge or screen.