OTHER COMMON NAMES: WAFER-ASH, WAFERASH, HOPTREE, COMMON HOPTREE, SKUNKBUSH, WAHOO, COLA DEZORILLO
BOTANICAL NAME: Patellae trifoliata
PRONUNCIATION: TEA-lee-a TRI-fole-ee-AH-tah
FAMILY: Rutaceae (Rue Family)
TYPE: Deciduous small tree or bush
HEIGHT: 5 to 20 feet
SPREAD: 5 to 10 feet
FINAL SPACING: 6 to 12 feet
NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Will grow almost throughout the entire state except for the extreme southern tip. It is often found in protected canyons on the edges of woods, in fencerows and along streams. It will grow in full sun, partial shade or as a complete understory tree. Can take a wide range of soils and grows well in both moist conditions as well as dry rocky sites.
IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: The wafer ash is very a interesting small tree that has aromatic (some people consider to be offensively aromatic) deciduous shrub or tree that grows to a maximum height of 25 feet. It has slender branches and pale compound leaves with three leaflets that vary in shape. The winged fruit is the most distinctive part of the little tree.
FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Flowers are greenish white in terminal panicles in the early spring. The fruit (samaras) follow and sport a distinctive single disc-shaped wing. The plant is usually unisexual or dioecious-male and female flowers on different trees. The seeds are flat and about one third of an inch in diameter and surrounded by a papery wing. The ripe seed will stay on the tree throughout the winter usually.
BARK: Light in color and smooth.
FOLIAGE: The leaves are alternate, trifoliate and light green.
CULTURE: Wafer ash is relatively easy to grow and should be used more. It is drought tolerant and can stand soils ranging from sandy to heavy clays and can even grow in rocky soil. It is adapted to full sun but does better with light shade as an understory tree. It needs very little if any fertilizer to survive and thrive.
PROBLEMS: Relatively few exist when the tree is planted in an adapted site and given a moderate to light amount of water.
PROPAGATION: Best results come from harvesting the fruit in late summer and early fall as the seed begins to dry and planted directly. It is not necessary to remove the wings. The seed will remain viable normally for about 16 months. Partial shade is beneficial for the young seedlings as they develop. Stratification is normally not needed. Some people like to provide cold hours for three months at 41 degrees. The plant can also be propagated by budding, grafting, or layering. Softwood and semi-hardwood cuttings taken midsummer to late fall can be successful.
INSIGHT: Wafer ash is a good tree to provide food and shelter for wildlife. According to Shinner and Mahler’s Flora of North Central Texas, the fruit have been used in the past as a substitute for hop even though they are reported to contain alkaloids and a poisonous saponin.