Winter Botany Study, Part 8: A Hint of Green? Hop Tree

With lots of sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s, spring must be around the corner. It’s been like waiting for a pot of pasta water to boil though!

Hiking up into our favorite side canyon in the Copper Trail system, brought us to one of my favorite ”trees” that I’ve been monitoring for several years; the Hop Tree (aka wafer ash). More like a big shrub rather than a tree, this particular plant is snuggled against a protective hillside just west of a beautiful rockfall. The cool and moist rocky setting seems to be just perfect for the hop tree and about 20 nearby relatives to flourish year after year. Last year at this time the buds were beginning to swell. Yesterday (March 26th) there was only a hint of green.

I am encouraged by the flexibility in all of the stems. It may be a matter of days and the first signs of leaves could be pushing through bud scales. Meanwhile, I noticed a number of winged seeds were still drooping from branches, and only a few seemed to have been drilled by hungry insects, either from the inside out or vice versa. And, wow! In the past several years I had not noted anything but single-winged seeds. Yesterday day I discovered a seed with 3 wings. Very curious. I wonder what caused this change?

With this post I included several journal sketches from last year’s observations of the same hop tree; previews of things to come!

So what does early Spring (or Fall) look like in your neighborhood?


  1. Well studied. It’s fun to have a tree that you watch and sketch– especially over several years. Enjoy your springtime hikes!


    1. Thanks so much for the feedback, Jean! It means a lot. I truly do love hop tree …. A refreshing change from everything with spines,my horns and prickles!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. janeottawa says:

    So much life affected by one small tree, on sooo many levels! How wonderful, Barb!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for the comments and especially for looking! Can’t wait to see what happens next!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating, Barb! This is a tree I am not familiar with, so thank you for sharing your wonderful sketchbook pages!

    (We loved our time in NM and am so grateful for the list of best places to see, we got to a few of them and I have sparked the others on my map! The sweeping flat, dry desert and grasslands that we travelled through between the National Parks was an experience for us as we are so used to everything green and lots of deciduous and evergreen forest. New Mexico has a charm of its own, and a mystery about it! We will be back one day. I am hoping to have a blog post and sketchbook page done soon!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So so happy you had a great time in the land of enchantment! Despite the crazy, snowy, rainy, windy and always unpredictable weather we have here. Very excited to see what your sketchbook pages reveal about your trip. And Karen, Thanks muchly for the comments on my post too. You’d like Hop Tree …. Kinda more like your leafy greens of the PNW.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. goodlifecp says:

    I don’t clean up my perennials until right before spring as I read birds can benefit from seed heads and the grasses provide shelter. Our landscaping looks unkept over the winter with the dead galardias and other vegetation but I’m ok with that and it’s not unsightly enough for the HOA to bring it up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good for you, and good for visiting wildlife!

      Liked by 1 person

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