Quick facts

Common names: hop, common hop

Scientific name: Humulus lupulus

Family: Cannabaceae

Origin: native

Flowering season: July to September

Habitat: hedges and woodland edges

What does hop look like?

This hedgerow climber flowers between July and September.

Leaves: deeply divided with three to five lobes. The leaves are arranged opposite to each other. They are rough to the touch and have toothed margins.

Flowers: green-yellow in colour. Male flowers grow in a loose branching group, whereas female flowers are catkins, shaped like a cone. The male and female flowers grow on different plants.

Fruits: the female flower develops into the fruit which is cone-shaped and initially light green, turning to brown when it has ripened. It has a distinctive scent, a bit like garlic, apples and yeast.

Not to be confused with: white bryony (Bryonia dioica). This is also a climbing plant and it may be mistaken for hop. However, white bryony has distinctive five-lobed leaves and the leaf arrangement is alternate (whereas they’re opposite in hop). The fruit of white bryony is also very different, being red. Be careful since white bryony is poisonous.

Hop male flowers

Credit: Blickwinkel / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to find hop

Hop can be found across the UK apart from in some areas of Scotland. Spot it in flower between July and September, climbing hedgerows as well as trees and bushes in fens and riverbanks.

Common hop

Credit: Alex Hyde / naturepl.com

Value to wildlife

As a climbing plant, hop helps create dense habitat in hedgerows and bushes, providing a small microclimate in the hedge and a valuable refuge for insects and nesting or roosting birds. The plant’s flower also provides nectar for insects.

Hop female flowers

Credit: Maxal Tamor / Alamy Stock Photo

Uses of hop

The inflorescences (flowering stalks) from hops have been used in beer making since the Middle Ages, thanks to their bacteriostatic (stops bacteria from reproducing) properties. As well as its culinary use, hop has been used to treat anxiety and sleep problems. An extract of the plant was used as a sedative.

Did you know?

Hop not only flavours beer, it helps with foaming and makes it last longer too.