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Gymnocladus dioica, photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens
Gymnocladus dioica, photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens

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Zone
Zones 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 7-10, 12-16, 18-21
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Gymnocladus dioica

Kentucky Coffee Tree

Deciduous, Trees

Native to eastern U.S. Grows very fast to 8–10 ft., then slowly to 60–100 ft. tall and 45–50 ft. wide. Provides year-round interest. Attractive leaves to 3 ft. long are divided into many small leaflets; pinkish when emerging late in spring, deep bluish green by summer. In leaf, the tree casts light shade. The heavy, contorted branches and stout twigs make bare tree picturesque in winter. Narrow, creamy to greenish white flower panicles at ends of branches in spring are up to 1 ft. long (and fragrant) on female trees, to 4 in. long on males. Blossoms on female trees are followed by flat, 6–10-in.-long, reddish brown pods containing hard black seeds. Pods persist through winter. Early settlers roasted the seeds to make a coffee substitute, hence the tree’s common name. Grows best in moist, rich, deep soil but adapts to poor soil, drought, city conditions. Can take much heat and cold. ‘Espresso’ is a good male (and therefore seedless) form.

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