Part of ☕︎ coffeetree  genus Gymnocladus in 🥜︎ legume / bean / pea  family Fabaceae in order Fabales.

Native to 🇺🇸 USA Midwest and Upper South.   🗺 Map by county (🇺🇸 USA-48), 🗺 map (North America, Central America),  Adobe Acrobat Reader file 🗺 map (eastern 🇺🇸 USA).

Its range used to much larger, now much reduced, due to a long story …

☕︎ 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. [1]

Uses by native peoples
(Ethnobotany database)
  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]

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

Most legumes (but not this species) cooperate with a bacterium that fixes atmospheric nitrogen into a form usable by plants and animals.

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

It is now planted occasionally as a ⛱ shade tree.

Planting info (SW Michigan).  Adobe Acrobat Reader file


[1]  "The Trees That Miss The Mammoths."  American Forests.  .   Accessed .

[2]  "Clonal colony."  Wikipedia.   Accessed .

Learn more about ☕︎ Kentucky coffeetree Gymnocladus dioicus

🔍︎ 🔍︎ images Discover Life Encyclopedia of Life Michigan Flora (Michigan) MSU Ext (Minnesota) Wild Flower Garden Minnesota Wildflowers NRCS PLANTS db Wikipedia