Kentucky Coffee Tree
Soil Preference: Moist, well-drained soil. Light Exposure: Full sun
The tree varies from 18 to 21 meters (60–70 feet) high with a spread of 12–15 meters (40–50 feet) and a trunk up to one meter (3 feet) in diameter. A 10-year-old sapling will stand about 4 meters (13 feet) tall. It usually separates 3 to 4½ meters (10–15 feet) from the ground into three or four divisions which spread slightly and form a narrow pyramidal head; or when crowded by other trees, sending up one tall central branchless shaft to the height of 15–21 m (50–70 ft). Branches are stout, pithy, and blunt; roots are fibrous. Gymnocladus dioicus is cultivated by specialty tree plant nurseries as an ornamental tree for planting in gardens and parks. The peculiarly late-emerging and early-dropping leaves, coupled with the fact that the large leaves mean few twigs in the winter profile, make it a tree that is ideal for urban shading where winter sunlight is to be maximized (such as in proximity to solar hot-air systems). It is often planted because of its unique appearance and interesting character. There are several Kentucky coffeetrees at Mount Vernon, in the gardens along the path leading up to the house of George Washington. Trees prefer a rich moist soil, such as bottom lands. Their growth is largely unaffected by heat, cold, drought, insects, disease, road salt, ice, and alkaline soil.