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Coffee Tree

Common Name(s): Kentucky Coffeetree, Coffeetree

So named because early settlers (particularly in the state of Kentucky) used roasted seeds from this tree to make a coffee substitute. Today, no such use is made of the tree’s seeds, but the wood is sometimes harvested and used for a variety of general construction purposes.


Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1 m) trunk diameter


Eastern North America

Scientific Name

Gymnocladus spp., Gymnocladus dioicus

Specific Gravity: Basic 


Specific Gravity: Basic 12% MC


Janka Hardness

1,390 lbf (6,180 N)


Heartwood an orange to reddish brown. Yellowish white sapwood is very narrow and well defined against heartwood. Overall appearance and grain pattern similar to Ash or Oak.


Grain is straight and porous, with a coarse, uneven texture.


Ring-porous; 2-4 rows of large earlywood pores, numerous medium to small latewood pores, sometimes clustered, in wavy or tangential arrangement; tyloses absent; growth rings distinct; rays fine and not visible without lens; parenchyma vasicentric, and sometimes aliform (winged and lozenge), confluent, and banded, especially in latewood zones.

Rot Resistance

Reports range from moderately durable to very durable regarding decay resistance, and is reported to fare well in direct ground contact. Reports are mixed on resistance to insect attack.


Coffeetree has good working characteristics, and nearly every machining operation can be done with good and expected results. Glues, stains, and finishes well.


No characteristic odor.


Besides the standard health risks associated with any type of wood dust, no further health reactions have been associated with Coffeetree.


Coffeetree is not a common tree, and though it grows on a number of sites in the United States, it is not plentiful in any one location. Supplies for Coffeetree lumber are likely to be limited, and mostly available only within its natural range in the Midwest and eastern United States. Prices should be in the mid to upper range for a domestic hardwood.


This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
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