Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Kentucky Coffee Tree, Kentucky Coffeetree
Gymnocladus dioicus

Family: Caesalpiniaceae (ses-al-pin-ee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Gymnocladus (jim-no-KLAD-us) (Info)
Species: dioicus (dy-oh-EE-kus) (Info)

7 vendors have this plant for sale.

16 members have or want this plant for trade.


over 40 ft. (12 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Seed is poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 26 photos.
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7 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Rickwebb On Dec 19, 2013, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

Nice, stout, macho shade tree with a bold outline that grows about 1 ft/yr and lives about 100 to 150 years. Dioecious, having separate male and female trees, so that the females bear the thick, stout pods. There are some male cultivars for those who don't want fruit.

Positive Shaunapie On Apr 18, 2011, Shaunapie from Chambersburg, PA wrote:

One of these trees grows outside my dorm I collected some seeds last month and cleaned them up the first one i've tried to grow already has roots going!

Positive Malus2006 On Jun 25, 2008, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

Not very common in the Twin Cities area - they are fairly rare and the largest number I have seen is at the University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus but in a bit remote location and also at the Minnesota Arboretum.

Positive lobsterandi On Feb 19, 2008, lobsterandi from Minneapolis, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

The tree provides nice shade, but not such a dark shade that plants can't be grown underneath it. It seems to grow decently well anywhere... Its a pretty tree, turns very yellow in the fall.

It has nice big seeds. If you're planting htem indoors, I've found that a 72 hour hot water (not boiling) soak helps them out. If the seeds swell up, you've hit the jackpot. If they don't swell, try filing the seed coat until you see a little bit of the white insides, and then soak them in room temp water.

Note: When you file the seeds, make sure you don't file the embryo. The little pointy bump that sticks out of the seed is where the embryo is, so file well away from that area.

Positive melody On Nov 29, 2004, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

This tree is mostly native West of the Applachians. It's seeds were roasted and used as coffee in some areas during the Civil War.

Native Americans were supposed to have roasted the seeds too...eating them as nuts. Care should be taken ,because as with any wild food, parts of this tree are poisionous. The pulp between the seeds is poision and cattle will even become ill after drinking water where seed pods have fallen into it.

The reddish wood is strong and coarse, but takes a good polish. It's useful in cabinets and makes fine fenceposts.

The unique bark makes for good Winter interest, and the large compound leaves make a fine shade tree for suburban areas.

Positive Glowclubbr On Sep 7, 2003, Glowclubbr from Silver Spring, MD wrote:

In Windsor, Ontario: it is nearly extinct in the wild, where it generally grows slowly. In intensive cultivation (i.e., water, abundant fertilizer, mulch, and no turf ), I had a seedling grow very fast - 20 feet in 5 years. However they do grow slowly after larger trees are transplanted.

An excellent street tree, they tolerate extreme heat, cold, salt, and just about any kind of soil. I have seen very large specimen in Ontario, and Maryland (U.S.) They are known to reach 130 feet tall, 70' is average. There is a large one on Main Street, in Laurel. It is very vigorous there, despite growing in terrible conditions. I also recomment the extremely rare and beautiful Chinese Coffee Tree. It grows at the U.S. National Arboretum, and seems hardy and moderate growing (zone 6+).

Positive garbanzito On Jun 24, 2003, garbanzito from Denver, CO (Zone 5a) wrote:

Recommended as a lower-water street tree in Denver, CO. Slow-growing and leafs out late, which is a good defense against spring snows. As it matures, Gymnocladus dioicus gains a wonderfully angular winter profile.

Neutral smiln32 On Aug 31, 2001, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

This tree is a durable tree with an attractive form. The female trees produce fruit (pods that look lima bean-like) and are initially green, developing to brown, may persist for several years. The seeds can be slightly poisonous. Leaf color in autumn is yellow. This tree can reach a height of 80'.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Denver, Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado
Hinsdale, Illinois
Naperville, Illinois
Benton, Kentucky
Clermont, Kentucky
Frankfort, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Nicholasville, Kentucky
Paris, Kentucky
Versailles, Kentucky
Silver Spring, Maryland
Battle Creek, Michigan
Grosse Pointe, Michigan
Novi, Michigan
Buffalo, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota (3 reports)
Roswell, New Mexico
Hulbert, Oklahoma
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Nashville, Tennessee
Orem, Utah
Wytheville, Virginia
Ellsworth, Wisconsin

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