Hops and Hemps

Indian Hemp Common Hop Indian Hemp Common Hop

What are they?

Members of the Cannabaceae, hops and hemps are only similar in their roughly textured, palmate leaves and in their flowers that are carried on separate male and female plants. Otherwise, they are rather different, with one being a native, perennial, herbacous climber and the other an introduced annual from the tropics.

Where are they found?

Relics of cultivation may turn up almost anywhere, but especially on roadsides and in urban places. Native hop plants are most frequent in damp fen and wet woods.


The two species are rather distinct and can be identified by their rough texture and their distinctive leaf shapes.

Common Hop      Humulus lupulus

Common throughout much of the region with native populations mostly found in fens and river valleys on moister soils, while relics of cultivation occur in hedgerows in a wide range of habitats. Flowers July to August. The lobed leaves and roughly bristly nature of this plant are easily recognised. Male and female flowers appear on separate plants, with males being rare as they were shunned in hop growing areas because fertilisation of the female hops, used in brewing, ruins the flavour. Stems die off in the winter, but remaining growths can be recognised by their tightly twining nature and the presence of stiff, short prickles. A golden-leaved form is grown as a garden plant and can sometimes be found in waste places.

Common Hop Common Hop Common Hop Common Hop
Early shoot
Twining stems
Common Hop Common Hop Common Hop Common Hop
Male flowers
Female flowers
Developing fruits
Winter stems

Indian Hemp      Cannabis sativa

Occasional as a casual of waste places in urban environments. Also sporadically grown as a crop to produce hemp fibre. Flowers July to September. Familiar to some, no doubt, as Cannabis and the source of Marijuana, Indian Hemp can be recognised by its deeply palmately-lobed leaves that have a rough taxture. Male and female flowers are carried on separate plants. North Suffolk was once the main growing region in the UK for this plant for the production of hemp fibre, mostly for making ropes. Popularity in new strains for hemp fibre has waxed and waned in recent years and fields of this plant are occasionally found again in the region.

Indian Hemp Indian Hemp Indian Hemp Indian Hemp
Flowering shoot
Male flowers