Kentucky Coffeetree

Geographic Distribution:

The wood commonly known as Kentucky Coffeetree is known to botanists as Gymnocladus dioicus.

The most densely populated areas of the natural range of G. dioicus include Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.  The range extends into smaller parts of neighboring states such as Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, southern Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky.  Isolated pockets can be found across a much wider range including: Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and central New York.

Gymnocladus dioicus Range Map

For the sake of simplicity and common understanding I will hereafter refer to G. dioicus as Kentucky Coffeetree.

General Characteristics:

The heartwood of Kentucky Coffeetree ranges in color from orange to a darker reddish brown.  The sapwood of the Kentucky Coffeetree is yellow to white.  The sapwood is very narrow and well defined against that darker heartwood.

Kentucky Coffeetree has an overall appearance and grain pattern similar to that of ash or oak.

The grain of the Kentucky Coffeetree tends to be straight and porous.  The wood of the Kentucky Coffeetree has a coarse and uneven texture.

Kentucky Coffeetree is reported to range from moderately durable to very durable in regards to decay resistance.  Kentucky Coffeetree is even reported to fare well in direct ground contact uses such as fence posts.

Kentucky Coffeetree receives mixed reports in regard to resistance to insect attack.

Working Characteristics:

Kentucky Coffeetree is reported to have overall good working characteristics.

Kentucky Coffeetree is also reported to glue, stain, and finish well.

Kentucky Coffeetree has no characteristic odor.

Pricing and Availability:

Kentucky 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.

In this blog, I almost always recommend several vendors with whom I have done considerable business and in whom I have great confidence. These vendors are: West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, NCWood, WoodTurningz, Amazon Exotic Hardwoods, Griffin Exotic Wood, Exotic Woods USA, Got Wood?, and Wood Turning Blanks 4U.  Note: ALWAYS green turn wet blanks from NCWood as their wax will not hold for extended drying periods.

Of these find vendors, only WoodTurningz is currently offering Kentucky Coffeetree for sale in sizes ranging from a pen blank for $0.95, a 6” x 6” x 3” bowl blank for $11.50 to a 3” x 3” x 12” mill spindle for $12.95.

Woodfinder is an excellent website that is dedicated to advertising wood dealers.  In your search for Kentucky Coffeetree, this can be an invaluable resource provided you use multiple search terms to capture all the possible listings.  I can’t speak to the quality of any of the listed dealers, but Woodfinder does have the advantage of allowing searches to be performed based on location which might allow an interested buyer to visit a listed wood dealer in person to hand pick pieces at a comfortable price.

A significant problem with using Woodfinder is that many vendors are listed for woods that, upon further investigation, they do not offer.  I don’t know if perhaps once they did and they didn’t update their listings or if some vendors use a standardized list of woods that include most everything conceivable with the idea that once you land on their page you will find something you want to buy even if you didn’t know it beforehand.  It happens to me all the time!

Common Uses:

Kentucky Coffeetree finds use in furniture, cabinetry, fence posts, and as a utility wood.


Kentucky Coffeetree is not listed as being endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendices nor does it appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.