||Latin name: Gymnocladus dioicus
Kentucky Coffee Tree
Although the winter habit of the Kentucky coffee tree is very course, it can be an attractive tree in the summer. It is one of the last to leaf out in the spring. The Kentucky coffee tree can be a tall tree, reaching a possible height of 100 feet.
The leaves of the Kentucky coffee tree are bipinnately compound. Leaves attach alternately to a rachilla and the rachilla attach alternately to the central rachis. There are many leaflets which are pointed and not toothed. The major leaves end with a fork of two compound. The leaves may be 3 feet long.
The winter branches of the Kentucky coffee tree appear very course. The tree is dormant for 6 months out of the year and is one of the last to sprout leaves. This leads to "dead" appearance once surrounding trees are covered with leaves.
The bark of the Kentucky coffee tree is dark brown and deeply furrowed.
Flowers of the Kentucky coffee tree appear along with the leaves in May or June. They are present on both male and female trees. The flowers have a whitish green color but may appear as burgundy colored prior to opening.
The Kentucky coffee tree - Gymnocladus dioicus is a member of the legume (pea) family. Although flowers appear on both male and female trees, only the female trees bear fruit.
The Kentucky coffee tree may be quite messy as it drops leaflets, leaves, seed pods and rachis at various times of they year. The above photo showing rachi was taken in early April, 2004.
The seeds and surrounding pulp of the Kentucky coffee tree are toxic to humans and livestock. The seeds may be safe if they are cooked properly and were reportedly used to make a coffee substitute by pioneers.
Most of the pictures were taken on the west side
of Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois at parking
I was facinated by the tree at the beginning of the
entrance road to the parking lot and took many pictures
during the spring and summer. The tree was full of
flowers and I waited and watched for the fruit, which
never appeared. At the end of summer, I discovered
that all of this time I had been parking directly
in front of another Kentucky Coffee Tree which DID
bear fruit and I had never noticed.
Dioecious (male and female on separate trees), greenish-white
with tinges of burgundy. appear in late May to early
alternate, binpinnately compound. May reach length of
36". 3-7 pairs of pinnae with 6-14 leaflets each. Lower
leaves usually simple. One of the last trees to leaf
Terminal is absent. Laterals are small, pubescent and
sunken into the twig.
Green in summer, yellow in fall
Reddish brown to dark brown leathery pod. Pulp is green
in fall and winter, but those that I opened in Spring
had golden pulp. Pods may remain on tree through the
Kentucky Coffee Tree is native to the midwestern and
eastern United States.
Kingdom: Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta -- Seed
Division: Magnoliophyta -- Flowering
Class: Magnoliopsida --
Fabaceae -- Pea family
Gymnocladus Lam. -- coffeetree P
Gymnocladus dioicus (L.) K. Koch -- Kentucky coffeetree
Source for classification listing:
USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490
Karren Wcisel © copyright 2000 - 2004
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