Kentucky Coffeetree (Gynmocladus dioicus) surprisingly does not produce true coffee. The fruit of the tree can, however, be roasted and used in place of coffee beans. Eaten raw, the fruit is toxic for consumption. This widespread but rare tree is believed to be an example of “evolutionary anachronism,” in which a species was probably favorably selected during a time in which there were other organisms that could easily coexist with it, but are now extinct. The seed pods are difficult for many animals to chew and are toxic, and the seeds are actually too heavy for distribution by water or wind. Today, Kentucky Coffeetrees are mainly planted for ornamental reasons. There are a number of Kentucky Coffeetrees lining the pathway up to George Washington’s house at Mount Vernon.
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Photos taken at Old Town February 2021, June 2021 and 2022.