Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Wild Coffee
Psychotria nervosa

Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Psychotria (sy-KO-tree-uh) (Info)
Species: nervosa (ner-VO-suh) (Info)

9 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Tropicals and Tender Perennials

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
This plant is suitable for growing indoors

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

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

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By Floridian
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By IslandJim
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There are a total of 11 photos.
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9 positives
4 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive 1rama1 On Dec 26, 2014, 1rama1 from Vero Beach, FL wrote:

These very attractive native plants grow wild and abundantly on my lot (Vero Beach, FL, barrier island between ocean and Indian River Lagoon, zone 10a, sandy and acidic soil). Growth is fast and height quickly reaches 5', 6' and even 8' in some places. In most instances on my lot these plants grow and seem to flourish under a thin, scattered canopy of oak trees and palm trees which provides diffuse sunlight for most of the day and perhaps one or two hours of direct sunlight. Most of the plants are in range of our irrigation system, so I don't how they would fare without a regular source of water, though in our neighborhood I see a lot of them that look a bit scraggly and thin compared to the full, robust specimens in my yard. Both foliage and berries are attractive, and it appears that birds love the seeds and then drop them around so the plants pop up here and there with no effort on my part. Unfortunately, the random seeding means that some plants have shown up in areas where they block views or interfere with other plantings, which means I will have to remove them entirely or see if they can be transplanted. The plant has a full habit and grows thickly from front to back and side to side so, while it could theoretically provide a nice visual barrier from a neighboring property, it has such a large footprint that it is not suitable for small spaces nor for a formal hedge. I don't know how it would do trimmed like a hedge because I can't bring myself to cut it. I don't fertilize these plants or do anything special for them--they literally grow like weeds, very attractive weeds.

Positive BarbieCat On Jul 24, 2011, BarbieCat from West Palm Beach, FL wrote:

This is such an easy and attractive plant to grow here in it's native range of South Florida. I have it growing under some sun dappled shade in well drained soil which seems to be the perfect environment. It also grows in shore line hammocks in this area, but will get leggy and is bothered by some bugs

No bugs or disease bother it in my yard which is 5 miles inland and it has plenty of fragrant flowers and red berries, growing about 5 lush feet tall and rarely needs trimming. It has tolerated our drought as well it tolerates lots of rain and humidity. I don't irrigate it.

My understanding is that it's not a false coffee, but rather an inferior type for culinary use. Early settlers in Florida drank it as coffee.

Positive Critterling On May 8, 2010, Critterling from Miami, FL wrote:

I have it planted under an areca palm's shade. The leaves are glossy green and very pretty. Since May 1st is has been in bloom and there are all kinds of butterflies around it. The scent is pretty strong and kind of fruity, musty. I can't say I enjoy the scent but I sure do love the way the plant looks. I live in North Miami and I have had it over 10 years.

Neutral seanjs On Oct 25, 2009, seanjs from Orlando, FL wrote:

Grows wild all over Central Florida. One of the more common understory shrubs east of Orlando. Vouchered specimens all the way up into Duval and Alachua counties in North Florida.

Neutral margocarefree On Mar 10, 2009, margocarefree from North Fort Myers, FL wrote:

I just bought 3 Wild Coffee plants for my south Florida garden. The main branches have split outer bark and the some of the leaves have brown, dried tips. I don't know the cause of these symptoms. I will plant in a well-drained, weekly irrigated, shady area under some oaks. I also sprayed for "bugs"??.

Positive rwsherlock On May 1, 2008, rwsherlock from North Port, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I have had little problem germinating this plant from seed. Collect seeds when fully ripe and immediately place in germination pot covered with about 1/4" of common garden soil. I observed about 50-70% germination. Seed is slow to germinate (about 2-6 months). Allow to develop 2-4 permanent leaves before transplanting to permanent location.

Positive onalee On Jan 23, 2006, onalee from Brooksville, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I have to disagree with the zone hardiness listed for this plant. I've had it growing under some large oak trees in zone 9 for several years and, other than slight burning of new leaves, it hasn't suffered any set backs from the freezes we get here.

Very easy to grow, lovely foilage, flowers and berries!

Positive hermes3 On Mar 10, 2004, hermes3 from (Zone 6a) wrote:

Easy to grow addition to a Florida garden one wants to fill with native plants. It is however not psychoactive. Those psychotria are native to South America.

Neutral Monocromatico On Sep 27, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

The name Psychotria comes from South American species that has psycho-active compounds, and are used in hallucinogenic drugs, some of which are even deadly; nervosa refers to the many veins in the leaves. I donīt know either why itīs called "Wild Coffee", since it doesnīt looks very much like Coffea arabica.

Positive amorning1 On Sep 27, 2003, amorning1 from Islamorada, FL wrote:

Very easy to propagate a "leggy" plant using mound layering.

Positive IslandJim On Sep 20, 2003, IslandJim from Keizer, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

I've always been struck by how much this plant looks like the real deal. Probably couldn't tell the leaves apart in the dark. But if its berries do not contain caffeine, I wonder how [and why] did it get the botanical name Psychotria nervosa.

Positive ButterflyGardnr On Jan 9, 2003, ButterflyGardnr from Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

This is a great substitute for it's close relative the gardenia. It does not require the acidic soil and special fertilizers that gardenias do. The flowers are slightly fragrant and the red berries are eaten by wildlife. The seeds can be roasted and ground to brew coffee, though they do not contain any caffiene. The seeds will germinate readily. It does best in light shade or partial sun, and the leaves are deeper green when grown in those conditions. They tend to lighten and turn more yellow when in the sun.

Neutral Floridian On Nov 16, 2001, Floridian from Lutz, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

This Florida native has shiny leaves that are markedly veined, white flowers & red fruit. The flowers attract butterflies and the fruit is a favorite of cardinals and blue jays.
It will grow in full sun as a compact plant or will get loose and fairly leggy in moderate shade. Wild coffee was once used as a coffee substitute.
It makes a great container plant.


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

Apopka, Florida
Big Pine Key, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida (2 reports)
Brandon, Florida
Brooksville, Florida (2 reports)
Cape Canaveral, Florida
Clearwater, Florida
Delray Beach, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida (2 reports)
Gainesville, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Homestead, Florida
Islamorada, Florida
Lake Worth, Florida
Largo, Florida (2 reports)
Lutz, Florida
Marathon, Florida
Melbourne Beach, Florida
Merritt Island, Florida
Miami, Florida
Naples, Florida (2 reports)
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
North Fort Myers, Florida
North Palm Beach, Florida
North Port, Florida (2 reports)
Oldsmar, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida
Port Orange, Florida
Saint Petersburg, Florida
Sanibel, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Venice, Florida (2 reports)
Vero Beach, Florida
West Palm Beach, Florida

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