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The Kentucky coffeetree’s tolerance to pollution and a wide range of soils makes it a suitable tree for urban environments. Native to the Midwest, this tree bears leathery, reddish-brown seed pods that add winter interest to the Midwestern landscape. 

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Pea
  • Family (botanic) Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae)
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Restricted sites, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 60-75 feet
  • Mature width 40-50 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest late spring, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, White
  • Shape or form Irregular, Oval
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Messy fruit/plant parts
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 8. Native to the Midwest and often found along streams and in flood plains.

Bark color and texture:

Bark is dark brown and  rough, becoming scaly with curved edges.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color:

Leaves are  alternate, bipinnately compound  with numerous leaflets and measuring 36 inches in length and 24 inches in width. The lowest set of leaflets is simple. Leaflets are oval with entire margins, blue green color and mild yellow fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are long, spike-like clusters of greenish white flowers measuring 8 to 10 inches in length.   Male and female flowers are on separate trees.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Fruits on the female trees are 5 to 10 inch long, red-brown, leathery pods containing a few large rounded seeds. Male trees are seedless.

Plant care:

The Kentucky coffeetree should be transplanted to  sites with deep, rich, moist soil. Consider male cultivars to avoid messy fruit.

List of pests, diseases, problems, resistance and tolerances:

No serious pests are associated with this tree.  Its leaves and seeds are poisonous, however. It is tolerant of high pH, drought, and pollution.

These plants are cultivars of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.

Espresso  (Gymnocladus dioicus ‘Espresso’)

Is a male cultivar with arching branches forming a vase-shape. 

Prairie Titan™  (Gymnocladus dioicus  ‘J.C McDaniel’):

Another male cultivar with an upright, spreading form. 

Stately Manor (Gymnocladus dioicus ‘Stately Manor’):

A male cultivar with a more narrow, upright form.


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