Humulus, hop, is a small genus of flowering plants in the familyCannabaceae. The hop is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Hops are the female flowers (seed cones, strobiles) of the hop speciesH. lupulus; as a main flavor ingredient in beer, H. lupulus is widely cultivated for use by the brewing industry.
Although frequently referred to in American literature as the hops “vine”, it is technically a bine; unlike vines, which use tendrils, suckers, and other appendages for attaching themselves, bines have stout stems with stiff hairs to aid in climbing. In British literature the term “vine” is generally reserved for the grape genus Vitis. Humulus is described as a twining perennial herbaceous plant which sends up new shoots in early spring and dies back to the cold-hardy rhizome in autumn. Hop shoots grow very rapidly, and at the peak of growth can grow 20 to 50 centimetres (8 to 20 in) per week. Hop bines climb by wrapping clockwise (except for Humulus japonicus) around anything within reach, and individual bines typically grow between 2 to 15 metres (7 to 50 ft) depending on what is available to grow on. The leaves are opposite, with a 7 to 12 cm (2.8 to 4.7 in) leafstalk and a heart-shaped, fan-lobed blade 12 to 25 cm (4.7 to 9.8 in) long and broad; the edges are coarsely toothed. When the hop bines run out of material to climb, horizontal shoots sprout between the leaves of the main stem to form a network of stems wound round each other.
Male and female flowers of the hop plant develop on separate plants (dioecious). Female plants, which produce the hop flowers used in brewing beer, are often propagated vegetatively and grown in the absence of male plants. This prevents pollination and the development of viable seeds, which are sometimes considered undesirable for brewing beer owing to the potential for off-flavors arising from the introduction of fatty acids from the seeds.