Wafer Ash, Ptelea trifoliata is a fairly common understory and forest edge tree found in the eastern United States and southern Canada. Contrary to its name, it is not an Ash but is the most northerly occurring species of the citrus family though it does not produce fruit that we would recognize as citrus. Wafer Ash has several common names such as Hoptree, Stinking Ash and Water Ash.
Wafer Ash is a slow growing large shrub or small tree depending on how you train it and can grow to 15′ to 20′ tall and up to 15′ wide. It is hardy in zones 3 to 9. It prefers a well drained soil. The bark is smooth and grey and the leaves are a glossy dark green. The flowers are borne in clusters of small flowers. The flowers are very fragrant and are a good nectar source. Fall color varies from very little to a nice bright yellow depending on the year.
Besides being a good nectar source in June, Wafer Ash leaves are a food source for the caterpillars of several Swallowtail Butterflies including the Giant Orange Swallowtail our largest butterfly. The seeds have been used as a substitute for Hops and the bark has some medicinal qualities.
The Wafer Ash in nature tends to blend into the landscape of nature and disappear into the mass green background of summer but, when brought out into its own it can be quite a handsome tree. If grown as a naturalizing shrub it can fill in as a deciduous hedge with a mounding habit. It should be a welcomed addition to any bee forage garden or butterfly garden and perhaps in a medicinal garden. It is a non-invasive native plant that should have a place in any pollinator planting.