The Common Hoptree

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Ptelea trifoliata

The Hop tree is listed as rare for occurrence in Canada. In the botanical world, it is ‘the tree that got away’. This is the only tropical tree that has survived and genetically adapted to our colder climate. It derives its name because the pioneers of this area would harvest the fruit from this tree, the hops, and use it as a hop substitute for making beer.

The other interesting name for this tree is, stinking ash. Most botanical books indicate that the flowers are foul scented and are only pollinated by flies. In reality, the University of Guelph conducted a survey where they found that the Hop scent was highly variable and over 102 insects were found feeding on its flower – this is a huge number of pollinators. So don’t let the name mislead you – the name does not do it justice.

To the settlers of this area so long ago, Hop looked like poison ivy on a stick. They could see no wood value or wildlife value and so it was ruthlessly ripped out and eradicated from their fields. Even today, they are ripped out or sprayed mistakenly identified as poison ivy. Even landscapers, city planners and conservation authorities ignore this plant not seeing it true value.

This tree totally lends itself to restorative plantings. It likes full sun and favours disturbed ground. Considering a vast majority of southern Ontario is disturbed soil sites or abandoned fields this tree would be perfect for restoration projects. Even in raw sites where wind is a factor, the tree will adjust its size from small tree to large shrub.

There are really no diseases or pests to bother the Hop tree. My only recommendation is to wrap them every winter since they seem to be ‘vole candy’.

So why are people hesitant to grow the Hop tree with all the hardiness they possess? Add the bonus you have the largest butterfly in North America visiting them – it would seem obvious to give the Hop tree a try!

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