Alphabetical Plant Listing

Gymnocladus dioica (Kentucky Coffeetree)

Kentucky Coffeetree, Stump Tree, Chicot


Sturdy and majestic, Gymnocladus dioica (Kentucky Coffeetree) is a slow-growing, deciduous tree with a short trunk and a narrow, open crown with incredibly large, bipinnate leaves, up to 3 ft. long (90 cm). Each leaf is composed of softly hairy leaflets, 1-3 in. long (2-7 cm). Emerging pink-tinged in late spring, the leaves mature to a rich blue-green in summer before turning dramatic soft golds and yellows in the fall. Kentucky Coffeetree is dioecious with male and female on separate trees. Somewhat showy greenish-white flowers appear in late spring to early summer. The male flowers are borne in 4 in. long clusters (10 cm), while the female flowers are held in 12 in. long panicles (30 cm). Fragrant, the female flowers are followed by long, flattened reddish brown pods to 10 in. long (25 cm), which persist well into winter. As the leaves emerge late in spring and fall early, the tree is bare most of the year and shows off its incomparable dark brown bark, adorned with scaly, recurving ridges, adding seasonal interest. Native Americans and early American settlers roasted the seeds to brew a coffee-like beverage. Seeds are, however, very toxic prior to roasting, and should never be eaten fresh off the tree. Planted an ornamental for its very large leaves, stout twigs and exquisite bark, Kentucky coffeetree is adaptable to a wide range of soils, tolerates drought and city conditions. A superb tree for large lawns and parks.

  • Grows up to 60-80 ft. tall (18-24 m) and 40-50 ft. wide (12-15 m).
  • A full sun lover, this plant is easily grown in moist, organically rich, well-drained soils. Drought tolerant once established.
  • Low maintenance, this plant has no serious insect or disease issues.
  • No routine pruning necessary. Remove diseased, damaged, congested or crossing shoots.
  • Propagate by seed sown in autumn, or take root cuttings in winter.
  • Native to central and eastern United States, Ontario and Quebec, Canada.

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Requirements

Hardiness 3 – 9
Heat Zones 5 – 9
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21
Plant Type Trees
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Height 60' – 80' (18m – 24m)
Spread 40' – 50' (12m – 15m)
Water Needs Average
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Clay, Loam
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Fragrant, Showy
Native Plants United States, Midwest, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Northeast, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Southeast, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Southwest, Oklahoma, Texas
Tolerance Drought
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow

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By Erika J Mitchell, Peter Turner Photography, Wiert nieuman, Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.


Requirements

Hardiness 3 – 9
Heat Zones 5 – 9
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21
Plant Type Trees
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Height 60' – 80' (18m – 24m)
Spread 40' – 50' (12m – 15m)
Water Needs Average
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Clay, Loam
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Fragrant, Showy
Native Plants United States, Midwest, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Northeast, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Southeast, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Southwest, Oklahoma, Texas
Tolerance Drought
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow

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