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Native Plant of the Week: Wafer Ash

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

Name: Ptelea trifoliata - Wafer Ash or Hop Tree

Family: Rutaceae

Bloom Time: June

Flower: Greenish Yellow

Soil Condition: Dry-Moist

Light: Sun-Partial Shade-Shade

Height: 15-20' tall by 15-20' wide

Native Range: Eastern and Central United States including Long Island

Zone: 4 to 9

Ptelea trifoliata is a great, slow growing, underutilized small tree or understory tree that will form a colony by suckering and self sowing. If planted in full sun, the soil should be consistently moist. The flowers are great for pollinators, especially the smaller native bees and hover flies. Fall color is golden yellow. The seed pods are very showy. The fruits were once believed to be used as a substitute for hops to flavor beer before the European settlers introduced their hops to America. If you are lucky enough, like I was, you will one day witness a Giant Swallowtail laying her eggs on the foliage. Because it is in the Rue family, the fragrance of the bark, leaves and flowers is either a 'love it or hate it' scent. It makes a great hedge as it doesn't mind being cut back and also does well in a planter.

Fun Facts: It is the northern most member of the citrus family. Another common name is Poison Ivy Tree because of its shiny leaves of three.

Maintenance: Remove suckers if you want a more tree-like appearance, prune in the winter but only to remove dead wood.

Benefits: nectar source, host plant to Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Giant Swallowtail (her caterpillars are called Sun Dogs) and several moths, provides food and shelter for birds and mammals, deer and rabbit resistant, tolerates clay soil

Companion Plants: Quercus species (Oak Trees), Athyrium filix-femina (Lady Fern), Luzula acuminata (Hairy Woodrush), Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas Fern), Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium), Viola sororia (Common Violet)

pics: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar (KMS Native Plants LLC)



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