Kentucky Coffeetree*

Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus)

Planting Site:

Kentucky coffeetree's interesting name alludes to the former use of its roasted seeds as a coffee substitute. It is a medium to large-maturing tree with open branching, large blue-green compound leaves, and unique, almost scaly gray-brown bark.  A tree for all seasons, it is good for parks and other large, open spaces. This tree produces huge twice-compound leaves with a tropical look. Each leaf can measure up to 3 feet long. The fruits are long woody pods containing a single row of hard, dark-brown inedible seeds that resemble large coffee beans. In winter, this dark-barked tree creates a distinctive form against the barren landscape; in summer, its leaves turn dark bluish-green; and fall brings a lovely yellow. Kentucky coffeetree grows best in full sun in well-drained soil but is also very tolerant of urban conditions.

Illinois native species.

Gymnocladus dioicusGymnocladus dioicusGymnocladus dioicusGymnocladus dioicus


Street: Appropriate for restricted size planting sites; recommended by the City of Chicago Urban Tree Planting List
Park/Residential: Appropriate for landscaped planting sites including public parks, residential property, golf courses, cemeteries, etc.
Legacy: For plantings with an expected life span of more than 60 years; retained 50 percent or more climate suitability in models for the decade 2080
N/R +35 yrs: Not recommended for plantings with an expected life span of more than 35 years