Rutaceae (Rue or Citrus) Family
Plant is a shrub or small tree with a rounded crown; usually no more than 20 feet tall with a trunk diameter of about six inches. Preferred habitat is rocky uplands, valleys and along stream banks. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region.
Leaves are palm-like where leaf veins originate from a central point; 4-7 inches long with three leaflets at the end of a long stalk; oval-shaped and widest at the center, long-pointed at tip; finely wavy-toothed or no teeth at all. Tiny gland hairs appear on young leaves. Shiny dark green above, paler and sometimes hairy beneath; turning yellow in autumn.
Flowers are small; 4-5 greenish petals; bisexual; symmetrical. Flowers occur in early spring.
Fruit is disk-shaped with rounded wings; several wafers hang in drooping clusters that mature in autumn (some remaining through winter); reddish/brown and long-pointed seeds.
This widespread species includes many varieties with leaflets of differing sizes and shapes. The common name refers to a reported use in earlier days of the bitter fruit as a substitute for hops in brewing beer. The bitter bark of the root has been used for home remedies.