Gymnocladus dioica (syn. Gymnocladus dioicus) Fabaceae
Kentucky Coffeetree jim-NO-kla-dus di-o-EE-ka
- Deciduous tree, 40-50 ft (12-15 m), narrow in youth, aging to broad and contorted;
thick stems. Bark rough. Leaves alternate, large bipinnately compound (to 0.9 m),
leaflet entire. Usually dioecious - male and female flowers are on separate trees, sometimes trees
will also have perfect flowers (male & female parts in the same flower). Flowers are greenish white,
calyx 5-lobed, 4-5 petals and borne in many branched clusters, appearing in spring with the leaves; male
flowers have 10 stamens with bright orange anthers and are in clusters 7.5-10 cm long; female flowers have a
single pistil and are in elongated clusters 25-30 cm long. Fruit, leathery pods, 13-25 cm long,
2.5-10 cm wide (lima bean-like), are initially green, developing to brown, may persist for several years.
Pith of stems, wide and salmon-pink to brown.
- Sun. Grows best in moist, rich, deep soil, but adaptable to a wide range of conditions.
- Hardy to USDA Zone 3 Native range from New York and Pennsylvania to
southwestern Ontario and Minnesota, and south to Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Only a
few cultivars available, one known as Espresso has large doubly compound leaves, an arching
habit, and is seedless. It was selected as the best of the Kentucy Coffetrees and planted along an
entire street in Davis, California (Jacobson, 1996).
- Kentucky Coffeetree: seed were used as a coffee substitute by early settlers in Kentucky ......then a
Starbucks opened. Thank goodness, the seeds have toxic properties.
- dioica: dioecious, separate male and female plants.
- The specific epithet of this species, dioica, is probably the correct form, but it is often
given as dioicus. The genus, Gymnocladus, is feminine, therefore the correct
attribution must also be feminine, hence dioica; dioicus is the masculine form of the word.
If I have offended any Latin scholars with this explanation...mea culpa, mea
- Oregon State Univ. campus: east side Sackett Hall (dorm).