Ptelea trifoliata

Hoptree, Water-ash




  • native to eastern coast of United States
  • hardy to zone 3

Habit and Form

  • a small, deciduous tree or large shrub
  • dense, rounded crown
  • 15' to 20' tall
  • frequently multistemmed and suckering
  • medium texture
  • slow growth rate

Summer Foliage

  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • pinnate, trifoliate, deciduous leaves
  • leaves 2.5 to 5" long
  • with middle leaflet largest, possibly with short petiole
  • ovate to elliptical leaflet shape
  • margins entire or with minor serrations
  • shiny, dark green leaf color
  • pungent when bruised

Autumn Foliage

  • yellow-green fall color


  • small, greenish-white flowers
  • fragrant
  • flowers borne in terminal corymbs, 2" to 3" in diameter
  • blooms in early June


  • circular-winged samara
  • 1" in diameter
  • green, changing to brownish
  • persistent


  • dark gray bark
  • warty protrusions
  • reddish-brown stems


  • prefers well-drained soil
  • full sun or shade
  • moist soil

Landscape Use

  • for naturalized areas
  • for fragrant flowers
  • massing or grouping


  • none serious
  • leaf spot and rust is possible
  • spider mites possible in dry sites

ID Features

  • buds are silky-hairy, not raised above the leaf scar
  • no true terminal bud
  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • trifoliate leaves
  • leaf scars are U-shaped with unusually straight inner margins
  • leaves pungent when bruised
  • circular, winged samara fruit


  • by cuttings
  • by seed


None are common, but a few exist that deserve greater use and availability.

subsp. polyadenia - Normally found in the mountains, this variant grows lower into a shrub. It features heavy fruit production.

'Aurea' - This is a yellow-leaved form with bright gold young leaves that fade to light yellow-green by the middle of summer.

'Glauca' - A distinct departure from the species, this selection offers blue-green foliage.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.