General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Tree
Sun Requirements: Full Sun
Water Preferences: Wet Mesic
Soil pH Preferences: Neutral (6.6 – 7.3)
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 3 -40 °C (-40 °F) to -37.2 °C (-35)
Maximum recommended zone: Zone 8b
Plant Height: 60 - 80 feet
Plant Spread: 40 - 55 feet
Leaves: Good fall color
Other: One of the latest trees to leaf out and the earliest to drop its leaves.
Fruit: Showy
Other: thick, leathery brown legume pod. The pods, 5-10 inches long, form only on female trees and often hang on through the winter.
Fruiting Time: Late summer or early fall
Late fall or early winter
Flowers: Showy
Blooms on old wood
Other: Female blooms are fragrant
Flower Color: Green
Bloom Size: Under 1"
Flower Time: Spring
Suitable Locations: Street Tree
Uses: Provides winter interest
Shade Tree
Resistances: Deer Resistant
Rabbit Resistant
Tolerates foot traffic
Drought tolerant
Salt tolerant
Toxicity: Other: Seeds are toxic unless roasted. They contain cytisine, an alkaloid that is similar to nicotine and produces similar pharmacological effects
Propagation: Seeds: Scarify seeds: soak in concentrated Sulfuric Acid for 4 to 6 hous
Propagation: Other methods: Cuttings: Root
Pollinators: Various insects
Miscellaneous: Dioecious
Conservation status: Vulnerable (VU)

Conservation status:
Conservation status: Vulnerable
Common names
  • Kentucky Coffeetree
  • Kentucky Coffee Tree
  • Dead Tree
  • Stump Tree
  • Chicot
Botanical names
  • Accepted: Gymnocladus dioica
  • Synonym: Gymnocladus dioicus

  • Posted by ILPARW (southeast Pennsylvania - Zone 6b) on May 27, 2019 12:15 PM concerning plant:
    The Kentucky Coffeetree is a very interesting and handsome tree with a good coarse texture and a bold, macho winter form. Its native range is from central New York to spots in western Maryland & West Virginia to central Tennessee to central Oklahoma & eastern Kansas to southern Minnesota to southern Michigan & Ohio from floodplains to lower upland slopes. It has huge bipinnately compound leaves to 3 feet long by 2 feet wide with many leaflets to 3 inches long each. The foliage is slow to leaf out in the spring and develops a good golden yellow fall color. The gray to gray-brown bark is very rough with scaly ridges curling outward. Small greenish-white to white flowers with 4 to 5 petals bloom in late May to early June. Normally dioecious (separate male & female trees) with the female flower clusters borne on 8 to 12 inch pyramidal panicle clusters while male flowers are on clusters about 3 to 4 inches long. Heavy, stocky, leathery, brown, 5 to 10 inch long pods ripen on the female trees in October and remain most of winter. Early pioneers in Kentucky used to brew the seeds as a coffee substitute. This species is not really common anywhere in its range; just found as a group here and there. Some megafauna as mastodons and mammoths must have eaten the pods and passed the seed around, so it probably was more common in very ancient times. I see it occasionally planted in arboretums, estates, campuses, business parks, in street parkways, and professional landscapes; not a lot in the average yard. This wonderful shade tree should be used more. There are several male cultivars available that are podless. It is sold at larger, diverse, conventional nurseries and at native plant nurseries.
  • Posted by Dodecatheon3 (Northwest Arkansas - Zone 6b) on May 16, 2014 5:31 AM concerning plant:
    Kentucky coffee tree is late to leaf out in the spring & loses its leaves earlier in the fall.

    It has no serious insect or disease problems. It prefers rich, moist, well drained soil, but will tolerate drought.

    Female trees produce interesting seedpods in October that remain into the winter, but they can be very messy. Male trees might be more desirable because they lack seedpods.

    Kentucky coffee tree will sucker to form a colony.
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