Kentucky has its own coffee tree. The coffee tree was actually Kentucky's official plant for 20 years before it was taken over by the tulip poplar.
The Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus) is a woodland tree that is native to Kentucky and also grows in other parts of North America including Canada. It is generally native to the eastern United States.
The Kentucky coffee tree is a member of the bean family, Fabaceae. The female tree develops pods that are six to ten inches long. The pods contain black seeds that resemble coffee beans. Unroasted seeds are toxic.
The pods and the seeds are so toxic that they can be harmful to animals.
However, the seeds could also be roasted and used as a coffee substitute. This substitute coffee was actually a staple during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars when the importation of coffee ceased.
The brewed "coffee" is unlike any other coffee. It is a bitter brew and is considered to be less palatable to the taste than other coffee substitutes. Moreover, it does not contain caffeine. However, in times of poverty and war, the Kentucky coffee tree serves its purpose.
Currently, the Kentucky coffee trees serve as ornamental trees. The trees can grow up to 60 feet tall and display an open canopy and lacey foliage.
It is also a very hardy tree and can withstand drought and pests. They also tend to live for a very long time as the Kentucky soil and climate remain suitable for their growth.