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Kentucky CoffeetreeGymnocladus dioicus

  • Kentucky Coffeetree - 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)

Hardiness Zones

The kentucky coffeetree can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 3–8. View Map

Tree Type

Mature Size

The Kentucky coffeetree grows to a height of 60–75' and a spread of 40–50' at maturity.

Growth Speed Slow to Medium Growth Rate

This tree grows at a slow to medium rate, with height increases of anywhere from less than 12" to 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree, meaning it should get at least six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The Kentucky coffeetree grows in in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils. While it tolerates wet soil, it has extreme drought tolerance.


This tree:
  • Produces pyramidal clusters of greenish-white flowers that bloom at the same time leaves are maturing (late May to early June). The flowers of the female trees have a rose-like fragrance.
  • Features bipinnately compound leaves that can reach up 36" in length and 24" in width. Individual leaflets are only about 2" long.
  • Is one of the last trees to leaf out in the spring.
  • Yields seed pods that are 5–10" long and green in color, turning brown, that persist through the winter.
  • Tolerates drought and pollution.
  • Grows in an oval or rounded shape.

Wildlife Value

Sources disagree on which parts of the seed pods are edible. The seed pulp is reportedly toxic to cattle.


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. In earlier times, its wood was used in the construction of railway sleeper cars.