Since I released my Guide to Selecting Shade trees, I have meant to write a post about the most frequently recommended tree from it. Here it is, the Espresso Kentucky Coffeetree.
So what makes the Espresso Kentucky Coffeetree so special?
No, it’s not that you can brew coffee from it. Early settlers did brew a coffee like drink from the seeds. I am guessing most people would prefer old coffee from any dumpy gas station before that beverage. Especially considering the seeds are poisonous.
What makes it special is not any one thing. It is the sum of its positives. They include:
- Attractive bold winter habit and bark
- Clean dark blue green leaves
- Free of insect and disease problems
- Adaptable to city conditions
- Native that supports some wildlife
- ‘Espresso’ has a classic Elm like form
- ‘Espresso’ is fruitless
It is native and supports native wildlife. Although since the seeds are poisonous, they are mostly avoided by mammals. The Honey Locust Moth does feed on it’s leaves. Bumblebees, Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, and the Ruby Throated Humming bird visit it’s flowers.
The seed pods are not unattractive, but some people consider them messy. ‘Espresso’ is seedless.
Espresso Kentucky Coffeetree Details
Gymnocladus dioicus ‘Espresso’
Hardiness Zones: Zone 3
Exposure: Full sun to Partial sun
Features: Picturesque vase-shaped form. Bold and attractive branch structure. Large compound leaves. It has a similar leaf to a walnut tree but is without that trees problems.
Growth Habit: Upright vase shaped form.
Fall Color: Yellow. Some years very attractive, some years not much. Fall color quality is not reliable.
Care and Growing Tips:
Water deeply when first establishing the tree. After established,it is very adaptable to both dry and moist soil. It also grows well in acidic or alkaline soil. It should do just fine under most home landscape conditions. It is also tolerant of salt and pollution.
Espresso Kentucky Coffeetree is best pruned in late winter.
Thanks to it’s poisonous leaves, deer leave it alone.
Verdict: When I was researching the best trees for different growing conditions, this tree kept coming up. If it had reliably good fall color, it would be close to the perfect shade tree. The next time I plant a large shade tree, there is a good chance it will be this tree. Highly recommended.