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Kentucky Coffeetree

Gymnocladus dioicus

Hardiness Zones: 3 - 8   View Map
  • Produces pyramidal clusters of greenish-white flowers that bloom at the same time leaves are maturing (late May to early June); the flowers of the female trees have a rose-like fragrance.
  • Features bipinnately compound leaves that can reach up 36" in length and 24" in width; individual leaflets are only about 2" long
  • Is one of the last trees to leaf out in the spring
  • Yields seed pods that are 5–10" long and green in color, turning brown, that persist through the winter
  • Tolerates drought and pollution
  • Grows in an oval or rounded shape

Tree Details



Growth Speed

Slow to Medium

Scientific Name

Gymnocladus dioicus

Mature Height

60' - 75'

Mature Spread

40' - 50'

Shipping Height

1' - 1'6"


Drought-resistant. Tolerant of pollution. Adaptable to a variety of soils. With its reputation as a tough species, the Kentucky coffeetree is an excellent choice for parks, golf courses, and other large areas. It is also widely used as an ornamental or street tree.

The tree’s picturesque profile stands out in all seasons and can be attributed to a unique growth habit of coarse, ascending branches that often form a narrow crown. Tree expert Michael Dirr pointed out that there are “certainly no two exactly alike.”

Sun Preference

Full Sun

Soil Preference

Acidic, Alkaline, Clay, Drought, Loamy, Moist, Rich, Sandy, Well Drained, Wet

Wildlife Value

Sources disagree on which parts of the seed pods are edible. The seed pulp is reportedly toxic to cattle.


The Kentucky coffeetree is native to the central states of America from Pennsylvania to Nebraska and from Minnesota to Oklahoma. This tree gets its name because early Kentucky settlers noticed the resemblance of its seeds to coffee beans. In earlier times, its wood was used in the construction of railway sleeper cars.

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