Focal point, Rain Gardens
60' - 80'
Moist, organically rich, well-drained
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus) is a large, deciduous tree that grows naturally in moist, rich woods, wooded hillsides, and floodplains. It adapts well to urban conditions, tolerating drought, air-pollution, and occasional flooding, so it is often used as a specimen tree or street tree. The branches are bare for about 6 months of the year, but when they do appear the leaflets show a wide variety of color. The youngest leaflets are bright pink aging into green, and in autumn they turn a bright clear yellow. There are panicles of greenish-white flowers that bloom in late spring/early summer. The male* panicles are 4″ long while the showy female panicles are 12″ long. Fertilized female flowers give way to reddish-brown seed pods in October which persist well into winter.
Kentucky Coffeetree is rare in the wild since the animals that would have dispersed the seeds are extinct, making it vulnerable to overharvesting. It is considered an example of evolutionary anachronism. The tough, leathery seed pods are too difficult for many animals to chew through (in addition to being poisonous), and they are too heavy for either wind or water dispersal. It is believed that the tree would have been browsed upon by now-extinct mammalian megafauna, which ate the pods and nicked the seeds with their large teeth, aiding in germination.
Properly roasted seeds were used by Native Americans and early settlers as a coffee-like beverage (hence the common name), but BEWARE, the leaves, pulp, and raw (or improperly roasted) seeds can be poisonous to livestock, humans, and pets.
*NOTE: Our Kentucky Coffeetree crop is unsexed, and we cannot guarantee the gender of plant you receive.
We ship from two locations:
Maryland – Our nursery in Maryland is perfectly located to serve the Eastern United States within a 2-3 day shipping window. You will receive the most reasonable shipping rates from our Maryland location if you live east of Ohio.
Illinois – Our nursery in Illinois is perfectly located to serve the Midwestern United states within a 2-3 day shipping window. You will receive the most reasonable shipping rates from our Illinois location if you live west of West Virginia.
We are now shipping for Fall 2023!