History: Kentucky Coffeetrees are native to the midwestern United States and the southernmost parts of Ontario. Despite its fairly large range, it is relatively rare today likely due to evolutionary anachronism. It is believed Kentucky Coffeetrees co-evolved with megafauna that are now extinct, so previously beneficial traits like the thick leathery pod around its seeds now hinder seed dispersal. Indigenous peoples have used the tree as source of food by roasting the seeds and making a coffee-like drink, and the seeds have also been used as pieces in games and to make jewellery. Nowadays, the tree is planted ornamentally in urban areas.
Why We Grow It: This nitrogen-fixing, Carolinian tree produces seeds that may be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, but be aware the raw seeds are toxic! This tree boasts the largest leaves of any native tree, and it's considered a threatened species.
Canadian Hardiness Zone: 5
Soil Preference: Prefers rich loam but is adaptable to different soils
Growth Habits and Disease Resistance: Tree reaches 18-21m tall. Generally free of disease and insect issues.
Sun/Shade: Full sun (approx. 8-10 hours of sun daily)
Ripens: Seeds are ripe anytime after the pods turn tan, pods will drop naturally in late winter and early spring