January 29


What You Should Know About The Kentucky Coffee Tree

By Noel D.

January 29, 2020

coffee tree, kentucky coffee tree, planting trees, tree care

One of the most beautiful trees that you can find for your yard or business is the Kentucky Coffee Tree. While it doesn’t provide coffee (unfortunately), it is still a fantastic, hardy tree. Many people are looking into planting this tree on their properties for a few reasons.

However, as with any tree, there are some things that you need to know before you plant. Here is a rundown of some of the most basic information:

It Can Be Planted In Cities And In Rural Areas

  • It is extremely hardy against pollutants
  • Drought-resistant as well
  • Beautiful in all seasons

The Kentucky Coffee Tree is popular in urban areas because it tolerates pollution from vehicles. In fact, it seems to thrive in these conditions. That doesn’t mean it also doesn’t thrive in rural areas – it seems to make itself at home wherever it goes.

Mostly commonly, this tree is used on golf courses, in public parks, and around hospitals because of this fact. It is also popular in urban areas because it has a somewhat narrow crown, which means that it can fit in almost anywhere. It is a great tree to prune as well: it will eventually train to grow into a certain pattern, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.

It is important to know that this tree has a moderate growth rate in urban areas but will grow slightly faster in rural areas.

Tolerant To Many Different Conditions

  • As mentioned, grows in many areas
  • Can grow in different soil types
  • Seeds are not attractive to animals

The Kentucky Coffee Tree is actually a bit of a mystery to many people, including tree professionals. This is why it probably isn’t as popular as it could be, given how hardy it is. In Defense of Plants, a website that looks at different types of plants and trees, explains why it is so confusing: ” In the wild, Kentucky coffee tree can be found growing on floodplains and, very occasionally, scattered through upland habitats. As such, water has been invoked as the only known dispersal agent. This is a strange mechanism to call on as nothing about this tree (other than its current habitat) suggests adaptations for water dispersal. Its seed pods are quite heavy, chock full sweet pulp, and don’t float very well. What’s more, the pods often remain on the tree all winter and the large seeds within require ample scarification before they will germinate. They are toxic to boot. “

It has been shown that in order for the tree to germinate properly, there needs to be some mammalian interaction, but animals steer clear of them. If you want this type of tree, it is likely that you will have to reach out to a local nursery or tree professional to get it for your property.

Even so, those who have this tree absolutely love it because of the different conditions it can grow it – it will easily transition through the seasons.

It Is Actually A Member Of The Pea Family

  • Has large, woody pods
  • The pods were used (in a pinch) as a coffee substitute
  • Native Americans planted it for other health reasons

Many people believe that the Kentucky Coffee Tree gets its name from the little pellets inside of the pods, but that isn’t true. According to the University of Kentucky Department of Horticulture, it is actually because the early settlers used to boil the pods as a substitute for coffee – but it is reported to not actually taste all that great. Native Americans used this concoction as a laxative.

It was actually first used by Native Americans (who were able to plant and spread the tree more easily than we are even today) as a treatment for many diseases, including “insanity,” according to records.

The Kentucky Coffee Tree is actually a member of the pea family, and you might be able to see why when you look at the pods, they do resemble peas. Some also consider it a member of the legume family. This is also because of the pods, though there is some contention because the seeds do not “fix” nitrogen like many legumes do.

It Has No Serious Threats Of Infestation Or Diseases

  • Most animals seem to stay away from this tree
  • The leaves and seeds are poisonous to most animals
  • Tolerant of high pH, drought, and pollution

The reason why these trees are planted in so many public places, and why they are able to thrive in forests when they can germinate is because they simply are not attractive to diseases and pests. Most diseases are spread through contact with animals, who carry the spores and pests on their feet and bodies as they run from tree to tree – but animals tend to avoid this tree because it is so poisonous to them. When you don’t have animals running around, you don’t have as many problems.

According to the Morton Arboretum, “Native to the Midwest, this tree bears leathery, reddish-brown seed pods that add winter interest to the Midwestern landscape.” Even so, these pods are quite poisonous so you will have to remove them yourself, they will not get carried away by animals.

The clean up is something to consider for those who may want to plant this tree in their yards. Even so, they are so beautiful in all seasons.

Your trees should be important to you. In fact, the trees in your yard may be nondescript, but that can have a huge impact on your life. If your trees are giving you trouble or you are just worried about their health, make sure to contact a tree care professional as soon as possible. At Arbortec Tree Service, we serve the greater Denver area. Give us a call at your earliest convenience at: (303) 466-3175. No matter what, we will treat your trees like they are the most important ones in the area – that’s a promise.

Header photo courtesy of Leonora (Ellie) Enking on Flickr!

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