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TREES & Plants

Wafer-Ash

 Wafer-Ash is a  small, native tree or large shrub that produces small fragrant flowers and wafer-like winged seeds, similar to elms. A good plant for naturalizing or woodland landscapes. Despite the name, this tree is not a true ash tree and is unaffected by the emerald ash borer.

Botanical name: 
Ptelea trifoliata
All Common Names: 
Wafer-Ash, Hop tree, Common Hoptree, Stinking Ash, Water-Ash
Family (English): 
Citrus, Rue
Family (Botanic): 
Rutaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (foliage falls off)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
  • Zone 9
Growth Rate: 
  • Medium
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial shade (4-6 hrs indirect light daily)
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
Tolerances: 
  • Occasional drought
  • Alkaline soil
  • Clay soil
  • Road salt
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Size Range: 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Irregular
  • Multi-stemmed
  • Rounded
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Massing
  • Mixed border
Time of Year: 
  • Mid spring
  • Late spring
  • Early summer
  • Mid summer
More Information: 

Size & Form

A small, native rounded tree or large shrub growing 15 to 20  feet high and wide.
Despite the name, this tree is not an ash tree and is unaffected by the emerald ash borer.

Tree & Plant Care
Adaptable to sun or shade and moist soil types, but prefers moist, well-drained soil
Plants have a tendency to sucker.

Disease, pests, and problems

Leaf spots and rust; nothing serious

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 8
Grows in rich woodlands, forest edges,  and thickets in moist to gravelly places.
Native  to Ontario, New York to Florida west into Minnesota

Bark color and texture 

Mature bark is dark brown with raised lenticels. Young plants have a smooth, reddish-brown bark.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, a compound, trifoliate leaflets , 2 to 6 inches long, lustrous dark green leaves changing to yellow fall color.
Petioles are as long as the leaflets.
Crushed leaves have a pleasant aromatic scent.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Small, 2 to 3 inches clusters (corymbs) yellow-green fragrant flowers.
May into June. Not particularly showy.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Light brown circular samaras (winged papery seeds) at the tips of branches in late summer, persisting into winter.