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Kentucky Coffeetree Gymnocladus dioicus


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Kentucky Coffeetree
© Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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Family: Fabaceae, Pea view all from this family

Description When crowded by other trees, this species grows tall and slender. If more open-grown, it becomes a round-topped tree. Its unique bark is dark brown and roughened with scale-like ridges in distinct patterns. It leafs out late in spring. The large, twice-compound leaves gives the foliage a tropical look. Greenish-white flowers are held in terminal clusters, and the fruit is a purplish-brown pod that remains into winter. Fall foliage is yellow-green. Kentucky coffeetree grows 75-100 ft. tall.

Warning Raw seeds are poisonous and can be fatal to humans and animals. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Habitat Canyons & valleys, Watersides (fresh).

Range Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, Plains, New England, Texas, Southeast, Eastern Canada.

Comments Kentucky coffee tree is resistant to disease and insect problems and adaptable to drought, chalk, heat, cold, salt and city conditions. The tree is slow-growing. Occasional root suckers should be pulled. Prune in winter or early spring. Wood may be somewhat brittle. Its light, filtered shade encourages healthy turf.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Flower June

Native Distribution New York to s. Ont, s. Michigan, s. Minnesota & Missouri R. region of Nebraska & South Dakota, s. to Virginia, n. Alabama, Arkansas & Oklahoma; naturalizing elsewhere

Site Preference Floodplains; moist woods; lower slopes

Soil Preference Deep, rich, moist sandy loams or silty clays. pH 6.6-7.5.

Wildlife Value Few animals or birds eat Kentucky coffee beans.