The Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata, Rutaceae) is a deciduous shrub or small tree 6–8 m (20–26 ft) tall with a broad crown. It is native to North America, from southern Ontario, Canada southeast to Florida, USA, west to southern California and south to Oaxaca in southern Mexico.
A small tree but often a shrub of a few spreading stems. It makes part of the undergrowth of the Mississippi river valley, and is found most frequently on rocky slopes. Has thick fleshy roots, flourishes in rich, rather moist soil. Its juices are acrid and bitter and the bark possesses tonic properties.
The twigs are slender to moderately stout, brown with deep U-shaped leaf scars, and with short, light brown, fuzzy buds. The leaves are alternate, 5-18 cm long, palmately compound with three (rarely five) leaflets, each leaflet 1-10 cm long, sparsely serrated or entire, shiny dark green above, paler below. The western and southwestern forms have smaller leaves (5-11 cm) than the eastern forms (10-18 cm), an adaptation to the drier climates there.
The flowers are small, 1-2 cm across, with 4-5 narrow, greenish white petals, produced in terminal, branched clusters in spring: some find the odor unpleasant but to others trifoliata has a delicious scent. The fruit is a round wafer-like papery samara, 2-2.5 cm across, light brown, maturing in summer. Seed vessel has a thin wing and is held on tree until high winds during early winter.
The bark is reddish brown to gray brown, short horizontal lenticels, warty corky ridges, becoming slightly scaly, unpleasant odor and bitter taste. It has several Native American uses as a herbal medicine for different ailments.
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