Hops under cottonwood tree

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New Member
Oct 10, 2018
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Hello all,

I have a cottonwood tree in my yard and I'm considering chopping the lower branches off and putting in a risome benath it.
There are also butterfly bushes that I'll be removing soon and a plum tree that I really appreciate in the general area. I also have chickens that roam a roughly 3000sqft area.

I see a couple of things potentially happening:
  • The hop vine will harm or even kill the cottonwood tree.
  • The hops may not get enough sun and simply die off.
  • The chickens will never let the hop vine get up the tree. I can put up a physical barrier if needed...
My Google searches reveal precious little regarding actual experience with this experiment. Can anyone share theirs?

I'm in the Seattle area if it helps.
I don't think the chickens or lack of sun will kill your hops. I grow mine (hops, not chickens) in a partly shaded yard. They grow well, but aren't as good as commercial ones. I throw a handful in my brew when they're ready, it's fun. Hops are very hardy.
The damage to trees from vines is usually long term. The extra weight on limbs, the competition for sunlight, constricting lateral secondary growth of trunks and limbs. Since hop bines die back to the ground, those won't be an issue. If the bines grow up in the tree, limbs it may be difficult to harvest. The shade may lower the amount or quality of hop cones, but it's a backyard homebrew garden so shouldn't matter. The hop plants will be competing with the tree for water, so it may need additional irrigation during the dry bits of the year.
I've come across wild hops growing up trees in the woods. Doesn't seem to bother the trees. Not like Kudzu. And I've never read anything about chickens bothering hop bines. In fact, they might help by eating bugs, which does seem to be a real problem in some areas. I think you'll be OK.
As others have stated, hops are quite happy to grow up trees and other natural structures. I have a chinook that often "jumps" from the top of the 20' trellis to a nearby pine. It will happily go another 20' up the tree. The only issue I have seen, is an increase of aphids in the upper sections (the tree gives them easy access).

That said, planting them too close to the root zone could be an issue. They will be competing with the cottonwood for water.
The latin name for hops ("little wolf") supposedly comes from them killing trees they grow on. I honestly find that claim dubious, though... and among trees and shrubs is where wild hops grow.