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Black bark from the Ptelea trifoliata tree is used as a sedative to calm stress, insomnia, pain, nervousness, and irritability. This may sound familiar with some of the benefits of the popular herbal remedy—Valerian root.Ptelea trifoliata is native to North America, where its northern limits are in Ontario and Quebec, Canada. It is native through much of the eastern and southwestern United States, although it is absent from some areas of the Upper Midwest and is rare in much of New England.Wafer Ash (Ptelea trifoliata), also known as Common Hop Tree, is a small, deciduous,understory shrub or tree with a thin, crooked trunk. This multi-stemmed tree is found from rocky slopes to river valleys, savannas, thickets, and woodlands. It can withstand somewhat-degraded habitats. The root system of Wafer Ash is branching; however, offspring are not produced from runners.
Common Name: common hoptree Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Tree Wetland Status: UPL General: Strongly-scented deciduous shrubs or small trees reaching 6 m tall; bark smooth brownish-gray. Leaves: Alternate (occasionally opposite) along the stems, on long petioles; blades palmately compound with three sessile, elliptical leaflets; each leaflet 1-10 cm long and 3-50 mm wide, with a pointed tip; leaflet surfaces yellowish-green to blue green and shiny above, paler and hairy below. Flowers: Greenish-white and somewhat showy, in cymose clusters with stalks shorter than the leaf petioles so that the flower clusters are buried in the leaves; unisexual and bisexual flowers are found on the same plant; sepals 4 or 5 per flower, united at the base; petals 4 or 5 per flower, about 5 mm long, white to greenish. Fruits: Samara (dry, winged fruit) 1-2 cm long, flattened, nearly circular, with a thin wing all around.
Ecology: Found in canyons, on shady and open slopes from 3,500-9,000 ft (1067-2743 m); flowers May-June. Notes: This is a large shrub with leaves in 3's; whitish flowers that resemble orange blossoms (they are in the same family); and dry, winged fruits similar to ash or maple fruits but flat and round. When the leaves are held up to the light, you will notice many delicate punctations or tiny glands on the surface. Crush the leaves to release a strong citrus-y scent. Can be confused with velvet ash (Fraxinus velutina) because of the 3-foliate leaves, but that species lacks the scented glands and has opposite leaves (look at where each set of 3 leaflets attaches to the branch). P. trifoliata is a quite variable species. Numerous subspecies and varieties have been proposed to describe the variation, but they are difficult to distinguish and are not necessarily worth worrying about. Ethnobotany: Root used as a seasoning and as a sacred medicine that holds many cures and that makes other medicines potent; leaves used externally for stomachaches, and also made into a poison. Etymology: Ptelea is the Greek name for elm, used because the fruits are similar; trifoliata means three-leaved. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley 2010, AHazelton 2017 (Source: swbiodiversity.org)