Growing up in North Central Kansas, I developed a love for large, tough shade trees to give rest from the intense summer heat. Although originally a prairie, my grandparent’s land is dotted with trees they collected seed for in their travels across America. They had me identify and catalog their tree species one year and I found over 50 species on their 4 acres surrounding the house alone. One of these, the Kentucky coffeetree really stands out among the rest.
I have fallen in love with many trees over the years
While other trees have come and gone, the Kentucky coffeetree shines on. My grandparent’s coffeetree stood the test of time and storms. They planted it between the outhouse and the kitchen, on the east side of the house. Seedlings and suckers have popped up all around the area. It receives no special care or pruning, yet marches on.
I have fallen in love with many trees over the years, and the coffeetree got neglected from my radar until recently when I was there looking over the place. I realized just how large and magnificent their tree really is. It easily tops 70 feet tall and 50 feet wide, though the diameter of the trunk is not more than 30 inches. I have never officially measured it, though I have seen the state champion in Hiawatha, and they could be close.
The bi-pinnate leaves of the coffeetree provide an interesting texture that only a few trees this large could give. The pods are large, 3 inches wide by 6 inches long. There are a couple of fruitless cultivars including the aptly named ‘Espresso’. They grow up to 100 feet tall and 60 feet wide, though more narrow trees are common. They are adaptable to more conditions than most trees, being very drought, heat, and storm tolerant.
I know I am looking forward to adding a coffeetree to my personal arboretum, hopefully I can get a seedling off my grandparent’s tree in Cloud County.