These trees are slow growing and require light to medium soil moisture. They reach a size of 50-70′ by 40′ with a round to oval canopy. Kentucky Coffeetree has very attractive bark, leaves and seed pods. It is tolerant to high pH soils and drought. This is a tree that should be planted much more than it is as it is quite suitable to the Front Range and has almost no pest and disease issues. Its open canopy allows considerable sunlight through to the ground which makes it ideal for turf planting.
The only issue is the litter from the seed pods which contain very hard seeds shaped like a coffee bean. It may be wise to avoid planting the tree where animals graze as it has been known to cause toxicosis in sheep, cattle, horses and humans. A field next to a fenced in tree could present saplings attractive to grazing animals as the tree often propagates off of root shoots.
Diseases and Pests
No known pests or diseases of any significance.
History and Use
The beans have been used as a coffee substitute. (I wouldn’t do that!) The leaves and seeds can be poisonous to humans if ingested in large quantities. When Kentucky was first settled by the adventurous pioneers from the Atlantic states who commenced their career in the primeval wilderness, almost without the necessities of life, they produced them from the fertile soil and fancied that they had discovered a substitute for coffee in the seeds of this tree; and accordingly the name of Coffee-tree was bestowed upon it. But when communication was established with the sea-ports, they gladly relinquished their Kentucky beverage for the more grateful flavor of the Indian berry; and no use is at present made of it in that manner.