Part of coffeetree  genus Gymnocladus in legume / pea  family Fabaceae and order Fabales.

Coffeetrees have large tough seedpods, which remain on the tree until early in growing season.  The seedpods contain sweet pulp and large seeds, with a thick waterproof coating that needs to be cut or abraded before 🌱︎ germination.  This seed protection probably evolved with, and to be spread by, 🐘︎ mammoth  genus Mammuthus.   After the Holocene extinction removed large herbivorous megafauna, poor seed-dispersal caused the plant's range to decline to floodplains in the 🇺🇸 USA Midwest and Upper South.  Although the raw seeds are toxic to humans, after roasting they are not;  early European settlers in Kentucky used these roasted beans as a coffee substitute, resulting in the tree's common name. [1]

Uses by native peoples
(Ethnobotany database)

Gymnocladus hosts caterpillars of 4 species
of butterflies and moths, in some areas.

It is now planted occasionally as a shade-tree.   Planting info (SW Michigan) (.pdf).

Often grows in clonal colonies [2] —look around for other stems!


[1]  "The Trees That Miss The Mammoths."  American Forests.  Winter 2010.   Accessed 2016-12-06.

[2]  "Clonal colony."  Wikipedia.   Accessed 2019-08-03.

Learn more about Kentucky coffeetree Gymnocladus dioicus

Discover Life Encyclopedia of Life Google Google images Michigan Flora MSUE tip sheet Minnesota Wildflowers USDA PLANTS db Wikipedia