the cosmopolitan australian

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Desert Hop Bush
dodonaea viscosa
sapindaceae

  • large screening shrub, to 12' high 

  • inconspicuous flowers are followed by 3-winged pods 

  • Moderate water (terrace zone)

  • FULL TO PART SUN

  • hardy to about 15°F 

  • LARVAL FOOD FOR Cincta silkmoth (Rothschildia cincta

Hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa) is a fascinating plant. All species of the genus Dodonaea are found only in Australia--that is, except for this species which is found in all continents (except Antarctica) extending from 44° S (in the South Island of New Zealand) to 33° N (in California and Arizona). In our neck of the woods along drainages, canyon sides , and rocky slopes from upper Sonoran Desert to desert grassland and chaparral, often on limestone from 2,000-5,000 feet in elevation. 

The flowers are relatively inconspicuous, but following the flowers are the hop-like, chartreuse-colored, 3-winged pods (thus the name "hop bush". Don't try using this as hops for beer though, this plant is fairly poisonous containing active saponin compounds. 

This plant makes an excellent screen growing vertically to about 12 feet high. Unpruned, it can get about 10 feet wide, though most often found a bit more narrow. This shrub takes well to pruning, but don't hedge it into unnatural shapes--that just looks stupid and makes you look like you don't know a damn thing about plants. The natural shape of this species is gorgeous, and we suggest you just plant it in the right place and allow it to do its thing.

There are a few varieties of this plant in the market: the selection 'purpurea' develops a purple hue in cold weather, returning to a greenish hue in warm weather. 'Saratoga' has deep purple foliage year round. 

This is a larval host plant for the Cincta silkmoth (Rothschildia cincta), a giant, beautiful moth. 

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Katherine Gierlach