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Kentucky coffeetree

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**Botanical Characteristics:**
Kentucky coffeetree reaches heights of 18 to 21 meters with a spread of 12 to 15 meters and a trunk diameter of up to one meter.
– Growth rate is medium, with annual height increases of 12 to 24 inches.
– A 10-year-old sapling stands about 4 meters tall.
– Typically lives from 100 to 150 years.
– Dioecious tree with male and female flowers on separate plants.
– Female flowers are 8 to 12 inches long, greenish white, and fragrant, appearing in early summer.
– Male flowers are about half the size of female flowers.
– Flowers have specific characteristics like tubular calyx, oblong petals, ten stamens, and a superior ovary.
Fruit is a legume, 6 to 10 inches long, with sweet pulp surrounding seeds.

**Taxonomy and Distribution:**
Genus Gymnocladus is derived from Ancient Greek words for branch and naked.
Kentucky coffeetree is the only species native to North America in the Gymnocladus genus.
– Native range includes areas from Southern Ontario, Canada, to Kentucky, Connecticut, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Louisiana.
– Gymnocladus has four other species native to South, Southeast, and Eastern Asia.
– Considered a rare species that is widely distributed but rare.
– The tree is planted as an urban shade tree across the United States and eastern Canada.

**Ecological and Cultural Significance:**
– Historically dispersed seeds through megafauna.
– Plays a crucial role in forest ecosystems by providing food and habitat for wildlife.
– Used for ceremonial and recreational purposes by Native Americans.
– Native Americans used various parts of the tree for medicinal purposes.
– Recognized for its unique appearance in landscaping.
– Early settlers used the seeds as a coffee substitute.

**Uses and Management:**
– Cultivated by specialty tree nurseries for urban environments.
– Ideal for urban shading due to late-emerging leaves.
– Grows well in various conditions like heat, cold, drought, and alkaline soil.
– Efforts to conserve genetic diversity.
– Propagation through seeds and seedlings.
– Research on long-term sustainability.

**Notable Specimens and Additional Resources:**
– Specimen in France had a height of 26 meters.
– Largest Kentucky coffeetree in Texas has specific measurements.
– Sternberg’s ‘Native Trees for North American Landscapes’ and Hightshoe’s manual on urban and rural tree planting are recommended resources.
– University tree guides for planting dimensions.
– Links to multimedia resources on Gymnocladus dioicus.
– Resources for further reading on the Kentucky Coffeetree.

The Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus), also known as American coffee berry, Kentucky mahogany, nicker tree, and stump tree, is a tree in the subfamily Caesalpinioideae of the legume family Fabaceae, native to the Midwest, Upper South, Appalachia, and small pockets of New York in the United States and Ontario in Canada. The seed may be roasted and used as a substitute for coffee beans; however, unroasted pods and seeds are toxic. The wood from the tree is used by cabinetmakers and carpenters. It is also planted as a street tree.

Kentucky coffee tree
Gymnocladus dioicus

Secure  (NatureServe)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae
Genus: Gymnocladus
G. dioicus
Binomial name
Gymnocladus dioicus
Natural range
  • Gymnocladus canadensis Lam.
  • Guilandina dioica L.
  • Gymnocladus dioicus (L.) K.Koch [Spelling variant]

From 1976 to 1994, the Kentucky coffeetree was the state tree of Kentucky, after which the tulip poplar was returned to that designation.

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