Gymnocladus dioicus

Kentucky Coffeetree




  • native to the eastern and central United States
  • not common in any part of its native range
  • hardy to zone 4

Habit and Form

  • a large deciduous tree
  • grows up to 75' tall or even larger
  • develops a 40' to 50' spread
  • upright to irregular branching
  • coarse, but picturesque branching in winter
  • shape is obovate

Summer Foliage

  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • bipinnately compound leaves
  • leaves are up to 3' long and 2' wide
  • 6 to 14 pinnae (leaflets) per leaf
  • each pinnae can have 6 to 14 leaflets
  • leaf color is dark green or blue-green
  • late to leaf out in spring
  • newly emerging leaves are tinged with pink

Autumn Foliage

  • inconsistent
  • sometimes a good yellow, but often not good
  • fallen leaves are somewhat of a litter problem due to the large rachis


  • dioecious, with male and female plants
  • greenish white 0.75' to 1" long flowers
  • flowers held in large panicles; 8" to 12" long for females and 3" to 4" long for males
  • flowers not highly ornamental, but interesting


  • a chunky, dark reddish brown pod
  • 5" to 10" long and 1.5' to 2" wide
  • leathery texture
  • ripens in October
  • large, very hard seeds inside pod
  • fruit may be considered a litter issue


  • interesting textured bark
  • gray and ridged and furrowed with a rough look to it


  • full sun
  • prefers deep, moist, rich soil for best growth
  • adaptable to many soils
  • tolerant of drought
  • tolerant of pollution

Landscape Use

  • lawn tree
  • shade tree
  • parks
  • golf courses


  • hard to find in commerce
  • litter potential from leaves and fruit

ID Features

  • large tree
  • coarse branching
  • rough gray bark
  • stout twigs
  • buds embedded in wood, barely visible through a small "belly button"-like opening
  • bud considerably above the leaf scar
  • female plants with large, chunky pods
  • large heart-shaped leaf scars


  • by seed
  • root cuttings offer a vegetative method


'Expresso', 'J.C. McDaniel' (Prairie Titan®) and 'Stately Manor' - At the current time, these cultivars are rarely offered in the trade. They are all male (fruitless) selections selected for their upright branching habit which is elm-like and much taller than wide (50'-70' tall and 20'-40' wide). This branching habit may make them suitable as street trees.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.