TREES & plants

Kentucky coffeetree

The Kentucky coffeetree's tolerance to pollution and a wide range of soils makes it a suitable tree for urban environments. Native to the Midwest, this tree bears leathery, reddish-brown seed pods that add winter interest to the Midwestern landscape. 

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name: 
Gymnocladus dioicus
All Common Names: 
Kentucky coffeetree
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae)
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
  • City parkway
  • Wide median
  • Restricted sites
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Shade
  • Parkway/street
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
60-75 feet
Mature Width: 
40-50 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Tolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Messy fruit/plant parts
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Spring blossoms
  • Fragrant flowers
  • Persistent fruit/seeds
Season of Interest: 
  • Late spring
  • Early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Irregular
  • Oval
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Transplant in sites with deep, rich, moist soil.
Consider male cultivars to avoid messy fruit.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious pests.
The tree's leaves and seeds are poisonous.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of high pH, drought, and pollution.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 8
Native to the Midwest.  Often found along streams and in flood plains.

Bark color and texture

Bark is dark brown; rough, becoming scaly with curved edges.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color

Alternate, doubly compound leaves; with numerous leaflets; lowest set of leaflets simple.
Leaflets, oval with entire margins and blue green color; mild yellow fall color.
The whole leaf is 36 inches long and 24 inches wide.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Long (8 to 10 inch) spike-like clusters of greenish white flowers; male and female flowers on separate trees.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

5 to 10 inch long, red-brown, leathery pods containing a few large rounded seeds on female trees.
Male trees are seedless.

Cultivars and their differences

Espresso  (Gymnocladus dioicus 'Espresso'):  Arching branches provide a vase-shape; male cultivar.

Prairie Titan™  (Gymnocladus dioicus  ‘J.C McDaniel'):  An upright, spreading male selection.

Stately Manor (Gymnocladus dioicus 'Stately Manor'): Male cultivar with a more narrow, upright form.