Kentucky Coffee Tree

By: C. Colston Burrell
The Kentucky coffee tree is a member of the pea family, with the female growing reddish-brown pods. See more pictures of trees.

Native to the central United States, Kentucky coffee tree is a member of the pea family. Its name -- from the Greek, meaning "naked branches" -- refers to the fact that it loses most of its leaves in the early autumn. It is also one of the last trees to leaf out in the spring.

Description of Kentucky coffee tree: A tall, handsome, somewhat slow-growing tree, the Kentucky coffee tree can reach cultivated heights of 60 to 75 feet (taller in the wild). Its stout branches carry large, compound leaves with many leaflets. The bark is rough, scaly, and dark grayish brown. The reddish brown pealike pods of female trees hang on into the winter.


Growing Kentucky coffee tree: Kentucky coffee tree likes full sun and moist, fertile soil. It is a tough tree that can adapt to dry soils and city stress, and insects are not usually a serious problem.

Uses for Kentucky coffee tree: Use a male for a street tree to avoid pod litter. The Kentucky coffee tree is too big for the small landscape but is a park or large garden candidate. It has a bold winter silhouette.

Related species and varieties of Kentucky coffee tree: There are no related species or varieties.

Scientific name of Kentucky coffee tree: Gymnocladus dioica


Want more information on trees and gardening? Try:

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  • Types of Trees: Looking for fresh ideas about what to plant? Find out about different species that can turn your yard into a verdant oasis.
  • Gardening: Get great tips about how to keep your garden healthy and thriving.