Gymnocladus dioicus

Common name: Kentucky Coffee Tree

Native plant

The ugly duckling of trees that I grow, the Kentucky Coffee Tree turns into a beautiful swan as it matures. It has the largest bipinnate leaves in northern Illinois, and these large leaves need large branches for support. A 2-inch caliper tree has only 1 to 3 branches. Females produce 3-6 inch seed pods that stay on all winter providing great winter interest. I have two trees in my yard which unfortunately are male.  As the trees are dioecious, you would believe male and female trees are needed to produce fruit. The females must not be listening, as my dad had only one female tree, and it set fruit every year with no males in the area! This tree is widely adaptable to our urban areas and pest free. The scaly ridged bark and irregular coarse branching habit create a dramatic effect on the winter landscape. Fall color is a very short-lived yellow.


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Woodies- Standard Tree
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Plant Details

Plant type


Soil type

Mesic (Not too Wet Not too Dry), Moist Mesic, Wet

Light exposure

Full Sun

Bloom period

Late Spring

Urban environment

Harsh Exposure Tolerant, Compacted/New Construction Soils, Road-side/Salt Tolerant, Yards that Flood


Floodplain, Moist Woods, Savannas, Wetlands, Woodlands

Growth form

Shrubby/Clump, Single trunk, Colonizing / Spreading

Growth rate


Flower color


Fall color



Mature height
40 Feet
Mature width
30 Feet
Max height
60 Feet
Max width
50 Feet

Additional information

Butterfly host plant

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