Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus Dioicus): Pods, Bark, Leaves, Identification and Care (Pictures)

The pinnate green leaves, greenish-white flowers, and enormous reddish-brown seed pods of the Kentucky coffee tree (also spelled coffeetree) make it an appealing medium-sized deciduous tree. The Kentucky coffee tree has an irregular oval crown with open branches that provide partial shade and is native to the Midwest. In the winter, the tree’s scaly gray-brown furrowed bark and reddish-brown twigs help to identify it.

Because of its looks and growth patterns, the Kentucky coffee tree is a popular decorative tree. The bright yellow leaves of the moderately fast-growing tree turn purple in the fall. The blackish-brown large seed pods dangling from the branches are beautifully offset by the golden-yellow foliage.

Due to its open branching habit, the Kentucky coffee tree has a beautiful silhouette in the winter. The Kentucky coffee tree can be identified in this article completely. This decorative native tree may be recognized all year with descriptions and photographs of the coffeetree leaves, bark, flowers, and seed pods.

About Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus Dioicus)

The only native tree in the genus Gymnocladus in the legume family Fabaceae is the Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus Dioicus). Between 60 and 70 feet (18 and 21 meters) wide, the lovely deciduous tree with its open, uneven crown grows. In the landscape, the Kentucky coffee tree stands out as a lovely shade tree with a unique presence. The bark is unusual, the branches are contorted, the flowers are white star-shaped, and the seed pods are brownish-black.

The roasted seeds of the Kentucky coffee tree make a coffee-like drink that you can make. The gymnocladus botanical name refers to its prominent robust twigs, which are naked. American mahogany, American coffee berry, chicot tree, and nettle tree are some of the other names for this ornamental tree. The name stump tree or dead tree has been given to the tree since it does not grow for six months.

The botanical name “dioicus” means there are male and female trees, which is part of its botanical name. Little white star-shaped blooms cluster 4″ (10 cm) long on young Kentucky coffee trees. The blooms on female trees are bigger. Female tree flower clusters may grow to be 8″ to 12″ (20–30 cm) long and greenish-white. Since they don’t create seed pods, male trees make a good choice for putting in a residential setting since they leave less trash. Drought and urban air pollution are also ideal environments for the Kentucky coffee tree.

The Kentucky coffee tree is not related to the coffee plant (Coffea), despite its common name. You can roast the tree seeds or beans and create a coffee-like drink. Roasted seeds, which have a similar flavor to chicory, are a excellent substitute for coffee.

The toxins that the pods and beans contain must be removed before roasting the beans. The timber industry makes use of the Kentucky coffee tree. Fence posts, general construction, railway sleepers, and sills are all made out of its hard wood, which is rot-resistant. Moreover, wood is a common material for producing fine furniture because it is simple to work with.

Kentucky Coffee Tree Pods

Throughout the winter, the Kentucky coffee tree produces big pods or fruit that appear green and turn reddish-brown. The thick, leathery seed pods are 5 to 10 inches (12 to 25 cm) long and 2 to 5 inches (5 to 12 cm) broad. The coffee tree pods develop in October and drop early in the spring.

The rattling sound that immature pods make in the wind is one of the characteristics of Kentucky coffee tree pods. The hard seed-filled brown bean-like pods clatter together, creating the clattering sound. When the pods fall to the ground, litter may be a problem for Kentucky coffee trees. The seeds are contained in a gooey pulp, which may cause a mess on hard surfaces. It’s helpful to recall that the pods and seeds are poisonous.

Kentucky Coffee Tree Seeds

Olive-green or dark-brown, almost black Kentucky coffee tree seeds may be found. A pod has three to nine seeds, each of which is 0.6″ to 0.75″ (1.5 cm) long. The round, black-colored seeds are surrounded by a gel-like substance. They’re difficult to germinate due to their hard outer shell. Kentucky coffee tree seeds, like the pods, are deadly.

As a result, to eliminate the toxins from the raw seeds, they must be roasted thoroughly. Roasted seeds look like coffee beans once they are roasted. You may make a caffeine-free beverage by grinding the seeds and brewing them like you would coffee beans.

The honey locust tree’s sweet fruit is also resemblanceed by the seeds and pods. Therefore, if you’re selecting the non-toxic honey locust fruit, be cautious. Nausea, stomach discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea may occur after ingesting raw Kentucky coffee tree seeds.

Kentucky Coffee Tree Bark

Kentucky coffee tree bark has a rough surface with deep fissures running up the trunk, creating zig-zag patterns, and is characteristic of the state. The coffee tree bark looks like a black cherry tree, with a distinctive cinnamon or ash-gray hue. The scaly plates’ edges curve towards each other.

The color of the winter twigs of the Kentucky coffee tree is another appealing feature. The dark reddish-brown or greenish-brown color of the stout bare twigs. The twigs’ thin bark peels off to reveal a pale pinkish pith beneath. There is no terminal bud, and the branches’ lateral buds are bronze in color.

Kentucky Coffee Tree Leaves

Kentucky coffee trees have pinnately compound leaves with five to nine pairs of almond-shaped leaflets that grow alternately on crimson branches and measure around 2″ (5 cm) long. Between 1 and 3 feet (0.3 and 1 m) long, the feathery dark green leaves. In the spring, the coffee tree leaves emerge golden yellow, and in the autumn, they turn brown.

In the fall, the leaves of a Kentucky coffee tree

Kentucky Coffee Tree Flowers

Kentucky coffee tree flowers blossom in May and June and are star-shaped and greenish-white in color, measuring about 1″ (2.5 cm). Flowers, each shaped like a star, make up the large panicles (clusters). Kentucky coffee trees produce flowers in both men and women. Male flowers on Kentucky coffee trees are little greenish-white clusters with 3″ to 4″ (7.5 – 10 cm) long panicles that cluster on the tree.

Female Kentucky coffee tree blooms are 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) long, and they are more noticeable. Fertilized female coffee plants produce up to eight seeds in huge, 10-inch (25-centimeter) dark leathery seedpods. Little, seedless pods develop on unfertilized female trees.

Kentucky Coffee Tree Growth Rate

When it’s young, the Kentucky coffee tree grows at a moderate pace and may reach a height of 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm) each year. In the first 10 years, an ornamental landscape tree grows to a height of 13 feet (4 meters). The tree’s development then slows somewhat. As a result, mature Kentucky coffee trees are generally characterized as having a sluggish to moderate growth rate.

Kentucky Coffee Tree Identification

The rough, scaly gray bark, large dark green pinnately compound leaves, and greenish-white clusters of late spring flowers are all characteristics of a Kentucky coffee tree. The enormous, leathery black seed pods that dangle from the crimson branches from fall to winter are the most noticeable feature of the coffee tree.

Kentucky Coffee Tree Hardiness Zone

USDA zones 3 through 8 are ideal for Kentucky coffee trees, which are tough deciduous trees. Full sun and rich, well-drained soils are ideal for the coffeetree. This hardy native tree can handle droughts, as well as occasional floods and urban circumstances.

Kentucky Coffee Tree Habitat

The Kentucky coffee tree, while native to the Midwest and Central United States, may be easily moved and thrives in a variety of conditions. The coffee tree may be discovered in floodingplains, along riverbanks, or in lovely deep woods. The Kentucky coffee tree is mostly found on the outskirts of damp woods because it is intolerant of shade.

In compacted clay soil, as well as sandy, loamy soil, the leafy landscape Kentucky coffee tree performs admirably. In some settings, the Kentucky coffee tree may seem to be dead. Because the tree is leafless from late autumn until late spring, it is called a leafless tree. Despite the absence of foliage, the medium-sized tree’s attractive branching generates a lot of visual appeal.

Where to Grow Kentucky Coffee Tree in a Garden Landscape

In residential landscapes, the Kentucky coffee tree has a variety of uses. In the summer, the tree’s wide feathery leaves provide plenty of cover from the open branching style. Yet, the shade created by the coffee tree does not prevent sunlight from passing through shrubs, grasses, and flowering plants.

Kentucky coffee trees are a good tree species for commercial landscapes because of their toughness and robustness. As a street tree, in parks, or along the borders of woodlands surrounding golf courses, the grayish tree with its peculiar peeling bark and rising branches thrives.

The Kentucky coffee tree, like the locust tree, grows in landscapes. Additionally, since there is no sticky pulp inside the seedpods, male cultivars are often the best option for growing. Additionally, Kentucky coffee trees don’t need pruning.

How to Plant a Kentucky Coffee Tree

The Kentucky coffee tree is a low-maintenance landscape tree that thrives in difficult environments. In cold areas such as USDA zones 3 and 4, you can plant the tree. It can grow up to zone 8 in temperate regions. Select a sunny area with well-drained soil when planting the Kentucky coffee tree in the garden.

Most soils are suitable for hardy coffee trees: fertile, compacted, loamy, moist, dry, or alkaline. It’s also worth remembering that the tree may spread up to 50 feet (15 meters) and needs plenty of room.

How to Grow a Kentucky Coffee Tree From Seed

To develop from seed, Kentucky coffee tree seeds need a lot of work. In the wild, the coffee seeds are seldom seen as they grow dark brown. The seeds must be scarified to soften them before they can be grown into a coffee tree. Put the bean-like seed in a non-metallic, heat-proof bowl to prepare them for germination. Soak the seeds in boiling water for a few minutes before stirring with a spoon. Soak overnight. Afterwards, remove any floating seeds.

Instead, you may sand or file off the black hard seed coat until the yellow inner seed is revealed. When water is present in moist potting soil, this procedure allows water to flow through the seeds.

Place the seeds in a pot with equal portions of wet peat moss and perlite to plant the softened or scarified Kentucky coffee tree seeds. In the potting medium, seeds should be spaced 1″ to 2″ apart (2.5–5 cm). Next, thoroughly wash the water. Place the pot in bright, but not direct, sunlight and keep the soil moist. In two to four weeks, the seedlings should appear. Until ready to plant in your garden, you may cultivated the young Kentucky coffee tree in a one-gallon (3.7 l) pot.

Kentucky Coffeetree ‘Kentucky Espresso’

A male, seedless cultivar with graceful, arching branches, white fragrant flowers, huge complex dark green leaves, and stunning yellow fall color is the Kentucky coffee tree ‘Espresso.’ The Kentucky coffee tree known as the Espresso reaches heights of 75 feet (22 meters) and widths of 50 feet (15 meters). In full sun, the deciduous tree thrives on a broad variety of soils.

Kentucky Coffee Tree ‘Stately Manor’

A fruitless cultivar with an upward, narrow branching habit and elm-like vase shape, the Kentucky coffee tree ‘Stately Manor’ is a fruitless cultivar. The medium-size landscape tree can grow to be 50 feet (15 meters) tall and 30 feet (9 meters) broad. The bipinnately compound leaves of the coffee tree known as the Stately Manor have distinctive black bark.

Kentucky Coffee Tree ‘Prairie Titan’

A medium-sized landscape tree with no seed pods is the Kentucky coffee tree ‘Prairie Titan.’ Between 60 and 68 feet (18 to 21 meters) tall, the upright spreading tree. Blue-green leaves, little white flower clusters, and gorgeous peeling bark distinguish the Kentucky coffee tree known as the “Prairie Titan.”

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