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Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioicus)

Kentucky Coffee Tree In 1967, several specimens of Kentucky Coffee Tree were planted near the Arboretum Shop area. Over time, the original trees died and were removed, but numerous root sprouts have survived forming two small groves around the stumps. Kentucky Coffee Tree is found throughout Tennessee and ranges from southern Ontario to northern Louisiana and Georgia and west to Oklahoma, Kansas, eastern Nebraska, and southeastern South Dakota. Kentucky Coffee Tree was designated the State Tree for Kentucky in 1976, but legislation was enacted in 1994 to replace it with Tulip Poplar.

Kentucky Coffee Bark Kentucky Coffee Tree Flower Kentucky Coffee Tree Leaves

Kentucky Coffee Tree belongs to the Pea family (Fabaceae). It grows to heights of 60 to 70 ft and has very large compound leaves (1 to 3 ft long by 1.5 to 2 ft. wide). These alternate, compound leaves are bipinnate (i.e., twice compound) with a central rachis having pinna bearing 6-14 leaflets, 1-2 in. long. The genus name Gymnocladus, from the Greek meaning "naked branches," refers to the coarse branches without twigs that are evident in the spring and winter when the large leaves are absent. The dark grayish brown bark has deep fissures with scaly ridges. The reddish brown wood - referred to as "Kentucky Mahogany" - has been used by woodworkers and cabinet makers, and is prized for interior millwork, bridge timbers, and railroad ties. It also is often used as a street tree. Kentucky Coffee Tree is dioecious, having male and female flowers on different trees. The large black to brown seed pods (3-8 in. long) contain seeds with very hard coats that were roasted by early American settlers as a coffee substitute - the basis for the common name "Coffee Tree." The leaves and uncooked seeds are potentially toxic.

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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
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