Monday, September 6, 2010

American Hop

They're everywhere along the Chippewa River State Trail - the cone-like green flowers (known as umbels) of Humulus lupulus, American Hop (also known as common hops).

I first noticed it a few years ago, when I started walking the trail.  You can't miss the big three-lobed leaves.  This native perennial vine seems to grow everywhere the sun shines, blanketing the trees and shrubs along the trail.  The scientific name lupulus is Latin for "small wolf," a reference to this species' tendency to overtake and smother whatever it grows on - living or dead, trees, shrubs and fences.

Just about everyone in Wisconsin has heard of the word "hops."  It's a flavoring used by beer meisters.   I did not know that its American cousin can be found growing in the woods in the Upper Midwest.  However, the hops used in brewing beer are varieties cultivated for their unique flavors - not these wild flowers.

A member of the cannabis (wild hemp) family, American Hop (leaves, flowers and pollen) can be irritating to touch.  I learned this by experience when I grabbed an umbel and broke it open to show Tom the dry seeds inside.  A few minutes after I tossed the umbel, I experienced a very unpleasant burning sensation (similar to poison ivy) that lasted until I could get to a faucet and wash my hands.

Check out the underside of the leaves and stems for caterpillars (and chrysalids).  Hop is the larval food for

and Hop Vine Moth.

1 comment:

  1. Oh how cool! We just bought a Toyato 2010 Prius IV. We homeschool so we tried to find things in our yard and neighborhood but occasionally venture out to nature parks in the area: