Coffeetree, Kentucky Gymnocladus dioicus
Picturesque in summer and winter, coarse ascending branches often form a narrow crown. Oval leaflets emerge late in spring, changing from pinkish-tinged to a dark, almost blue-green. Tolerates most conditions, drought and pollution. Needs full sun. Grows to 60'-75' with a 45' spread. (Zones 3-8)Pricing Information
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Hardiness Zones 3 - 8The Kentucky Coffeetree can be expected to grow in the zones shown in color in the arborday.org zone map. View Map
Type of treeOrnamental Trees, Shade Trees
Mature HeightThe Kentucky Coffeetree grows to be 60' - 75' feet in height.
Mature SpreadThe Kentucky Coffeetree has a spread of about 40' - 50' at full maturity.
SunThis coffeetree does well in full sun.
SoilThe Kentucky Coffeetree grows in acidic, alkaline, drought tolerant, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, well drained, wet, wide range, clay soils.
ShapeThis coffeetree has oval, rounded shape.
Resistant to disease and able to adapt to a wide variety of soils and climates, the Kentucky Coffeetree is an excellent choice for parks and golf courses. It is also widely used as an ornamental and street tree.
Picturesque in summer and winter, coarse ascending branches often form a narrow crown. Oval leaflets emerge late in spring, changing from pinkish-tinged to a dark, almost blue-green. Tolerates most conditions, drought and pollution. Needs full sun. Grows to 60'-75' with a 45' spread. (Zones 3-8)
Sources disagree on which parts of the seed pods are edible. Although the seeds have been roasted to make a type of coffee, one source says the raw seeds are poisonous. The seed pulp is reportedly toxic to cattle, but it has been used in home remedies.
The Kentucky Coffeetree is native to the central states of America from Pennsylvania to Nebraska and from Minnesota to Oklahoma. This tree gets its name because early Kentucky settlers noticed the resemblance of its seeds to coffee beans. Timber from this tree tends to be brittle, but can be used for fence posts. In earlier times, its wood was used in the construction of railway sleeper cars.
It tolerates some wet soil, yet has extreme drought tolerance.
This tree has bipinnately compound, 2 to 3 inches long leaflets, light green in summer and yellow in autumn.
Purplish flowers of the female tree have a rose-like fragrance. These mature into large, brownish seed pods containing large 3/4-inch bean-like seeds. Pods remain on the tree throughout the winter. Raw seeds are toxic to humans.
This tree produces a pod, 5 to 10 inches long, dry, hard, green turning to brown.
Rate of growth refers to the vertical increase in growth unless specified differently. Rate, as is true for size, is influenced by numerous variables such as soil, drainage, water, fertility, light, exposure, ad infinitum. The designation slow means the plant grows 12” or less per year; medium refers to 13 to 24” of growth per year; and fast to 25” or greater.Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, by Michael Dirr.