Common Name: Kentucky coffeetree, coffeetree

Scientific Name: 
Genus: Gymnocladus
Species: dioicus

Hardiness Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 60 to 80 ft
Width: 40 to 55 ft

Common characteristics:

 A large tree, capable of growing to heights of 50 to 70' tall. when open-grown trunks may reach 10 to 12' tall. Branches turn slightly outward to form a high, narrow, and irregularly rounded crown, under forest conditions, trunks may be clear for 70' tall. Its bark is dark gray or brown and will be deeply fissured. Leaves are doubly compound that has 40 to 60 smooth-margined leaflets Leaves grow alternately on the stem and can be 12" to 36" in length. Female trees grow purplish-brown seed pods that are 6" to 10" long that enclose six or more hard, round, flat, dark reddish-brown seeds.

Seeds should never be eaten straight from the tree. Seeds, leaves, and young shoots that are surrounded by the gelatinous matter contain a toxin that is harmful to humans, pets, and livestock. The name "coffeetree" comes from settlers using the seeds for a coffee substitute. Native Americans also used the roasted seeds for beverage and food. It is native to parts of Minnesota, though it is fairly uncommon in the wild. 

Where it grows:


Prefers moist, well-drained soil. Transplant in sites with deep, rich, moist soil. It will tolerate high pH soils, drought, pollution, and road salts. 

How it’s used:

The coffeetree is tolerant of urban conditions, serves best as a shade tree in yards, parks, or along boulevards. Consider male cultivars to avoid messy fruit.

Where it is native to:

Native to the eastern, central, and southern United States. Not commonly found in Minnesota but used in the urban landscape. 

Known Varieties and Their Traits:

Espresso  (Gymnocladus dioicus 'Espresso'):  Arching branches provide a vase-shape; male cultivar.

Prairie Titan™  (Gymnocladus dioicus  ‘J.C McDaniel'):  An upright, spreading male selection.

Stately Manor (Gymnocladus dioicus 'Stately Manor'): Male cultivar with a more narrow, upright form.


There are no known serious problems.  


Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. (Gymnocladus dioicus) Found online:

Minnesota Wild Flowers. (Gymnocladus dioicus) Found online:

The Morton Arboretum. (Trees & Plants) Found Online:

Kentucky coffee tree form 1
Kentucky coffee tree form 2
Kentucky coffee tree twig
Kentucky coffee tree foliage
Kentucky coffee tree foliage
Kentucky coffee tree fruit 1
Kentucky coffee tree fruit 2
Kentucky coffee tree fruit 4