Kentucky Coffee Tree

Gymnocladus dioicus

Native to the eastern and central United States the Kentucky coffee tree can reach a height of 60 to 75 feet with a 40 to 50 foot spread at maturity. It can reach a height of 90 feet. Growth rate is slow to moderate. The bi-pinnately compound leaf (leaflets are arranged evenly around a central stalk in two areas within the leaf) is one of the largest leaves (3 feet long and 2 feet wide) in North America. The Kentucky coffee tree is diecious meaning an individual plant is either male or female. The female tree produces brown leather like pods that contain large beans. These beans were roasted as a poor substitute for coffee by the settlers, thus earning its name. The fruit is poisonous unless roasted. Gymnos is the Greek word for “naked” and klados is Greek for “branch.” This name refers to the large, coarse branches (without smaller twigs) that remain after the rachis and petiole of the bipinnately compound leaves fall. The species name, dioicus, refers to the tree’s dioecious nature.


More Information