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Hop (Humulus lupulus)

A climbing plant, hop is often found among hedgerows, with the fruit it produces being used to make beer.

Common name: hop

Scientific name: Humulus lupulus

Family: Cannabaceae

What do hops look like?

Leaves: are deeply lobed and shaped with three to five lobes. The leaf arrangement is opposite. They look visibly rough as they 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.

Fruit: the female flower develops into the fruit which is cone shaped and brown when it has ripened. It has a distinctive scent, like garlic, ripening apples and yeast.

Not to be confused with...

White bryony (Bryonia dioica): also a climbing plant, white bryony may be mistaken for hop however the leaves of this plant have distinctive five lobed leaves and the leaf arrangement is alternate. The fruit produced are also significantly different being red berries in this species, but be careful they are poisonous.

Where and when to find hops

Where: located across the UK, except some areas in Scotland, hop can be found climbing hedgerows, as well as trees and bushes, fens and riverbanks.

When: a perennial which flowers from July to September.

Value to wildlife

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

Uses and folklore

Medicine: this plant has various uses but was mainly used to treat anxiety and sleeping problems as an extract was made from the plant which acted as a sedative.

Food and drink: the fruit from this plant plays a large part in the beer making industry, as it is used to flavour the drink. This practice started at the end of the Middle Ages, to enable the brew to be kept longer. In the late nineteenth century the young shoots were often pruned and and boiled for eating.